Zarkandar (pink): could press Champion Hurdle claims in Betfair HurdlePICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Zarkandar 8-1 favourite for Betfair Hurdle
CHAMPION HURDLE contender Zarkandar was on Wednesday installed as Betfred's 8-1 favourite for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 11.
Last year's JCB Triumph Hurdle winner can be backed at the same price for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and, after featuring among 50 entries, could make his seasonal return in the Grade 3 contest - formerly run as the Totesport Trophy.
"It will be interesting to see if Paul Nicholls uses the Betfair Hurdle as a prep race for Zarkandar ahead of the Champion Hurdle and he'll have to go close off a mark of 151 if he is to trouble the likes of Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham in March,” said Betfred spokesman George Primarolo.
The British champion trainer could have a strong hand in the race as he also made entries for Rock On Ruby and Brampour, who both feature in the ante-post Champion Hurdle market.
Betfred make Christmas Hurdle runner-up Rock On Ruby joint second-favourite at 10-1, with Brampour rated a 20-1 chance.
Darlan heads a six-strong entry from Nicky Henderson as he seeks a fifth win in the race. After extending his unbeaten record to four at Taunton on Monday, the JP McManus-owned five-year-old is Betfred's other 10-1 second-favourite.
Last year's winner Recession Proof could run for John Quinn, while Alan King's Raya Star, winner of the Ladbroke, has also been entered.
Hold On Julio, an impressive winner at Sandown last weekend, could be back in action before the end of the month, with Alan King's lightly raced chaser among 45 entries for the Skybet Chase at Doncaster on January 28.
Rowland Meyrick Chase winner According To Pete could feature in the Listed Chase over 3m and renew rivalry with runner-up Helpston, while recent winners Consigliere and Tamarinbleu have been entered by David Pipe.