Top hurdler Zarkandar co-favourite for Cesarewitch as first return to flat racing mooted

Paul Nicholls celebrates winning the national hunt trainers' championship at Sandown on Saturday. Pic: John Hoy (Courtesy of Sandown Park.)

Paul Nicholls celebrates winning the national hunt trainers’ championship. Pic: John Hoy (Courtesy of Sandown Park.)

By Simon Jackson.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Zarkandar has been put in as co-favourite at 12-1 with the sponsors for the £250,000 Betfred Cesarewitch at Newmarket on October 11.

Zarkandar, a half-brother to 2008 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Zarkava, heads the betting alongside Pallasator and Quick Jack for the two and a quarter mile contest on the Rowley Mile.

Zarkandar, a three-time Grade 1 winning hurdler, won one of his three starts on the flat in France as a three-year-old, before transferring to Nicholls. The son of Azamour and Zarkasha showed an immediate aptitude for obstacles, winning a Grade 2 at Kempton on his debut and following up with victory in the 2011 Triumph Hurdle.

“When I saw that a quarter of million pounds was on offer it made me think about the Cesarewitch and it could be a nice race to go for with Zarkandar,” Nicholls said. “He might be the ideal type of horse for it.

“He is not a definite runner; we will have to crack on with him to get him ready in time. He won’t be going there for a day out – we will make sure that he is really ready.

“His flat handicap mark of 88 could be okay. Aaim To Prosper won the Cesarewitch twice but when we had him here he won a handicap hurdle off a mark of 124. Zarkandar is rated in the 150s yet he would have been getting lots of weight off Aaim To Prosper if they had met in a flat race.

“I was pleased with Zarkandar’s last run, when he finished third in the French Champion Hurdle [on June 8]. He actually stayed on really strongly and showed that he gets beyond three miles.

“He was then out in the field for a month or five weeks. But he is not one that does well out at grass, so he has been partly back in for a while and is back in full training now.

“He is quite versatile with regards to the ground and two and a quarter miles on the flat should be fine for him.”

Betfred spokesman Andrew Griffiths said: “Pallasator has been backed off the boards for the Ebor and will be well fancied to improve on his solid fifth-place finish last year.  However, Zarkandar is the real fly in the ointment as he could be chucked in off a lowly mark of 88.”    

Betfred Cesarewitch (Betfred prices): 12 Pallasator, Quick Jack, Zarkandar, 16 Angel Gabrial, Beyond Conceit, Brass Ring, Cardinal Walter, Eye Of The Storm, Flying Officer, Mubaraza, Ray Ward, Rhombus, Rutherglen, Ted Veale, Waaheb, 20 Dashing Star, De Rigueur, Gabrial The Hero, Goodwood Mirage, Grecian Tiger, Hidden Universe, Maid In Rio, Nearly Caught, Noble Silk, Pearl Castle, Retirement Plan, Suegioo, Teak, 25 Adventure Seeker, Communicator, Dare To Achieve, Dark Crusader, El Salvador, Gabrial’s King, Gambol, Giant’s Quest, Hassle, Longshadow, Mysterious Man, Romeo Montague, Rosslyn Castle, Saddler’s Rock, See And Be Seen, Spice Fair, Statutory, Story Writer, Swnymor, Ted Spread, Vent De Force, Villa Royale, Wadi Al Hatawi, 33 Big Easy, Big Orange, Big Thunder, Boite, Debdebdeb, Digeanta, Dolphin Village, Earth Amber, Edge Of Sanity, Egyptian Warrior, Groovejet, Hidden Justice, Knightly Escapade, Lady Kashaan, Moidore, Repeater, Royal Signaller, Saptapadi, Sir Frank Morgan, Sohar, Solar View, Special Fighter, Spiritoftomintoul, Stand To Reason, Streets Of Newyork, Very Good Day, Waterclock, 40 Albert Bridge, Ballinderry Boy, Be Perfect, Biographer, Bob’s World, Caledonia, Duchess Of Gazeley, First Avenue, Laughing Jack, Lion Beacon, Mick Duggan, Modernism, Pilgrim’s Rest, Gabrial’s Star, 50 Alexsandar, Argent Knight, Big Time Billy, Clondaw Warrior, Dark Ranger, Dino Mite, Ex Oriente, Jonny Delta, Sula Two, 66 Cloudy Spirit, Ermyn Lodge, Maoi Chinn Tire, Mr Burbidge. Each way 1/4 1-2-3-4-5. (All quoted).

Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.