Horses To Follow » Zarkandar


Zarkandar put up a really impressive performance to win the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday. Always travelling well, he made his ground around the home turn, challenged on the near side on the approach to the second last, picked up nicely between the last two flights and stayed on really well up the run-in to beat Molotof by two lengths, with the pair of them pulling clear of their rivals.

There was an awful lot to like about this performance. For starters, Zarkandar didn’t appear to be that well fancied. He was three times the price of his stable companion Tonic Mellysse, and it was interesting that trainer Paul Nicholls said afterwards that they expected him to come on a lot for the run, that he had taken a long time to get over his gelding operation and that they were on a fact-finding mission on Saturday. That said, the trainer was at pains to point out that he always thought a lot of the horse, which is not wholly surprising given that he is a half-brother to super filly Zarkava, and that he had improved a lot since they gelded him.

The style of this performance was impressive, and that is backed up by the substance. The form looks solid, the runner-up Molotof represented the Henderson/Geraghty/Munir team that won the Adonis Hurdle last year with Soldatino, who was making his UK debut, before that horse went on to land the Triumph Hurdle, and he was well-backed, and the pair of them pulled clear of Kumbeshwar, a 133-rated performer, and Tonic Mellysse. Also, the time was good, the fastest hurdle race run on the day, 0.13secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par and almost eight and a half seconds faster than the time that Sire De Grugy clocked in winning the Grade 2 Dovecote Hurdle run over the same course and distance later in the day.

The Adonis Hurdle is usually a really good pointer to the future. It has been won in the past by subsequent Triumph Hurdle winners Mysilv, Katarino, Snow Drop, Penzance and, of course, Soldatino last year, as well as by subsequent Champion Hurdle winners Punjabi and Binocular, and Binocular must have gone close to beating Celestial Halo in the 2008 Triumph Hurdle if he had run in that race instead of in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

As an Aga Khan-bred horse, a horse who won on his racecourse debut over a mile and a half, Zarkandar should have no difficulty coping with the stamina test for juveniles that is the Triumph Hurdle. His trainer says that he will be even better on better ground, a hypothesis that is backed up by his breeding, and that he will go straight to the Triumph now. He has a massive chance and the 7/1 at which you can still back him could look very big on the day, especially if Ruby Walsh takes the ride.

26th February 2011

© The Irish Field, 5th March 2011