Three weeks before the 2011 running of the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the eventual winner of that race was still not only waiting for his British racecourse debut, but had also never jumped any sort of obstacle in public.
Zarkandar’s debut eventually did come in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton, which is a contest that has a respected rollcall of winners this century, including Cheltenham Festival victors Well Chief, Binocular, Punjabi and Soldatino.
He then followed up in the Triumph, upsetting some trends for the race because he only had the experience of one prior hurdles start.
Zarkandar had previously been seen on the Flat in France, making three appearances at trips between 1m4f and 1m7f for trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre. He was bred at the Aga Khan Stud.
The 2016 Triumph Hurdle market has been shaken up by the surprise defeat of ante-post favourite Ivanovich Gorbatov at Leopardstown and one horse that appears to be drifting along under the radar further down the betting is one that is almost a clone of Zarkandar.
Zubayr is another youngster from the Aga Khan stud, bred on the same cross as last year’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle favourite Nichols Canyon involving former Epsom Derby winner Authorized and Pre de l’Arc de Triomphe victor Dalakhani.
His racecourse career also started under the training of Royer-Dupre in France, albeit he only had two starts and these were over a maximum distance of 1m4f.
When sent to the sales with the intention of being bought for a career over obstacles, Zubayr was secured by a buyer for Paul Nicholls, who coincidentally trained Zarkandar.
This all happened back in July, but again with the Cheltenham Festival rapidly approaching, the British racecourse debut over hurdles of Zubayr has still not be seen.
The Adonis Hurdle remains a possibility with Nicholls sure to offer some experience at Kempton to a selection of his 12 Triumph Hurdle entrants.
Should Zubayr run and win, he will probably at least half from his current Triumph Hurdle price of 16/1.
It is said that Willie Mullins was a keen admirer of Zubayr at the sales, only narrowly missing out to the late bid. If he had been successful, the four-year-old may well be 8/1 already.
It could prove highly profitable to take the 16/1 now.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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