Zarkandar to land Kingwell double
Jack Nicol provides a horse byhorse guide to Saturday's Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
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Gained a course-and-distance victory earlier in the season when taking the Elite Hurdle from the useful Far West, but disappointed next time out when finishing down the field in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle; before it later transpired that the eight-year-old was suffering from a muscle injury.
The eight-year-old put his injury concerns behind him when taking the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock last time out and commands major respect, especially on his favoured soft ground.
Comfortably won this race last year and bids to regain the winning thread following a sequence of second place finishes behind The New One and Annie Power (twice) so far this season. Two and a half miles is widely accepted as his trip nowadays but his run behind The New One in the international Hurdle at Cheltenham demonstrated he could still cut it over the minimum distance. Carries a 10lb for his success in a Grade One contest at Aintree last season but must be the one to beat considering he is unbeaten at the track (2-2) and is also unbeaten on heavy ground (2-2).
Course winner who is making his first start since winning the JLT Specialty Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last season and is likely to need his comeback run here. The nine-year-old is having his first run over hurdles since April 2011 and a mark of 148 leaves him with quite a bit to find with the 165-rated Zarkandar as well as Grumeti. The ground won't be a concern but Colin Tizzard's gelding is easily passed over this time.
Useful six-year-old who came back wrong after contesting the Christmas Hurdle last time out, but connections report the Sakhee gelding to be working well at home and must enter calculations if bouncing back to form. His third-place finish behind My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth was a creditable effort, finishing one and a half lengths ahead of Melodic Rendezvous in the process. Jeremy Scott's gelding wasn't right that day but Grumeti was making his seasonal reappearance and must have every chance of confirming that form, especially with a handy 8lb pull.
Jeremy Scott entered the eight-year-old as a possible pacemaker for Melodic Rendezvous in case the race cut up but, with decent prize-money on offer, he could sneak into a place if one of the principles fails to perform. The Alderbrook gelding is a course-and-distance winner but an official handicap mark of 124 shows just how much he has to find to take a hand here. One to rule out.
Like Notarfbad, he looks to be playing solely for place money here, with his only victory over hurdles coming back in 2012 when he scored in a novices event off a mark of 98. Nigel Twiston-Davies' gelding finished 48 lengths behind Melodic Rendezvous when the pair met at Exeter back in February 2013 and a similar margin of defeat can expected once again. Dismiss.
An intriguing renewal in which ZARKANDAR can secure back-to-back victories in the race having landed this 12 months ago. Paul Nicholls' charge is unbeaten at the track and has run creditably in defeat so far this season and must be hard to beat, especially on this ground.
Melodic Rendezvous bounced back to form when taking the Champion Hurdle Trial from the useful Ptit Zig last time but has to reverse the form with Alan King's Grumeti, who could emerge as the biggest danger to the selection.
The six-year-old finished ahead of Melodic Rendezvous at Newcastle and has a healthy pull at the weights here and a big run can be expected for his resurgent trainer.