Zarkandar: cut across the board for the Champion Hurdle after gutsy winPICTURE: Julian Herbert/Action Images
Zarkandar sees off Wells in Elite Hurdle thriller
Report: Wincanton, Saturday
totepool.com Elite Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m, 4yo+
ZARKANDAR battled on bravely under top weight to see off the strong challenge of stablemate Prospect Wells to give trainer Paul Nicholls an impressive one-two in this £57,500 contest.
The winner, having his first start for 210 days and sent off at 100-30, successfully gave 17lb to the runner-up, who was ridden by Ruby Walsh, after an almighty tussle up the home straight.
To his credit, 2-1 favourite Prospect Wells never gave up but Zarkandar, who finished fifth in last season's Champion Hurdle, found more under Daryl Jacob and snatched the verdict by a neck.
He was cut to 10-1 (from 12) with Paddy Power, Betfred, Boylesports and William Hill for next year's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The result provided Nicholls with his fifth winner of the race in the last ten years after the victories of Santenay (2002), Perouse (2004) and Celestial Halo (2009 and 2011).
Nicholls said: "Both of them did their best to try and win and Zarkandar is the classier of the two and he came out on top.
"I never had him right last year and it is great to have him back like that, so onwards and upwards now. All things being well he'll run in the International [Hurdle at Cheltenham] next month."
Balder Succes, representing Alan King, attempted to challenge up the inner on the approach to the second-last flight but he was found wanting when the leading duo swept clear.