Zarkandar (nearside) was cut for Champion Hurdle after Wincanton winPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Zarkandar takes Kingwell from returning Kim
Report: Wincanton, Saturday
Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m, 4yo+
ZARKANDAR stayed on course for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with a win in testing ground at Wincanton.
The Paul Nicholls-trained winner was never in danger after taking the lead at the second-last and he came home well clear of Khyber Kim, who made a promising comeback from a long layoff.
Zarkandar won by four and a half lengths at odds of 1-3 to make it three out of three for the season.
Last year's Champion Hurdle fifth has been disputing second favouritism for next month's race behind Hurricane Fly and he was cut to 5-1 (from 6) by Paddy Power following his latest success.
Khyber Kim, the 2010 Champion Hurdle runner-up, was runner-up at 14-1 on his first outing in almost two years.
Balder Succes was third at 20-1.
Nicholls said: "That was perfect. Job done. He wasn't right for much of last season, but in contrast everything has gone perfectly this time and he looked stunning beforehand.
"He's had a nice gallop round without having a hard race. I was also very pleased with Celestial Halo who'll run in the World Hurdle.
"Ruby[Walsh] was always going to ride Hurricane Fly, how could he get off a Champion Hurdle winner? Daryl [Jacob] will ride Zarkandar."
Paddy Brennan, rider of Khyber Kim."He'll come on a bundle for the run. Turning for home I thought he'd win."