Past Winners » Zarkandar


I am happy with our bet on Unaccompanied in the Triumph Hurdle, but Zarkandar is well worth backing as well now with a run after the performance that he put up in winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.

There were a number of things to like a lot about this performance. Firstly, visually it was hugely impressive. He travelled like a good horse through the race, he made his ground easily on the outside on the run to the second last, he picked up impressively on the run to the last and he stayed on really well all the way to the line. The horse that chased him home, Molotof, is a good French import who was well fancied and well backed on his first run for Nicky Henderson and Simon Munir, interestingly the trainer and owner who were responsible for last year’s Adonis Hurdle and Triumph Hurdle winner Soldatino. The front two pulled well clear of Kumbeshwar, a 133-rated juvenile, with Tonic Mellysse, the better-fancied of the Paul Nicholls pair, back in fourth.

It looks like Paul Nicholls expected Zarkandar to come on a lot for this run. AP McCoy rode Tonic Mellysse – he surely would have been steered onto what they thought was the best of the two Nicholls horses – he was send off as favourite, and it was interesting to listen to Nicholls afterwards, he said that Zarkandar had taken a long time to recover from his gelding operation, but that he has always loved him even though others had better form on the flat. It shouldn’t be surprising that Zarkandar has a lot of latent talent, given that he is a half-brother to wonder-filly Zarkava, even if he did only manage a maiden win on the flat.

As well as all that, the time of the race was really good, the fastest hurdle race run on the day by some way, 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 on the day. And it is reasonable to expect that Zarkandar will come on appreciably for this, his first run over hurdles when he wasn’t well fancied.

There is more. The Adonis Hurdle is a significant pointer to the Triumph Hurdle, it is usually won by a good horse. Subsequent Triumph Hurdle winners Snow Drop, Penzance and last year’s winner Soldatino have won the Adonis, as have future top class performers Well Chief, Punjabi and Binocular. It usually takes a good horse to win it, and it is the ideal stepping-stone to the Triumph Hurdle.

The Triumph Hurdle is a stamina test for juvenile hurdlers, not a speed test. As a result, Aga Khan-bred horses, who are generally stoutly-bred, tend to do well in the race. Zarkandar is obviously Aga Khan-bred, his maiden win was over a mile and a half, and he was third, beaten a length, in a one-mile-seven-furlong conditions race on his last run on the flat in France. On top of that, while he handled the easy ground at Kempton on Saturday well, his trainer says that he will be even better on better ground, a hypothesis that is backed up by his breeding.

It is a little bit of a worry that Zarkandar will be going into the Triumph Hurdle with just one run over hurdles under his girth, not many Triumph Hurdle winners have run just once over hurdles going into the race, but not many with chances have tried that. That is the only worry among a plethora of pointers in his favour, and I am more than happy to live with that at 7/1 with a run.