The New One has the chance to avenge his Aintree Hurdle loss to Paul Nicholls’ Zarkandar when the pair meet again at Cheltenham.
Prestbury Park’s International Hurdle has attracted a field of just seven runners and it’s the top two in the market who merit the attention that’s being lavished upon them.
Sam Twiston-Davies will once again be onboard The New One for father Nigel with the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle winner a general 4/9 chance to land the big prize.
However, Zarkandar, a 5/2 shot, and will have no intention of playing second fiddle to the Champion Hurdle hopeful.
Cheltenham’s 2m1f represents a step down in trip for the six-year-old having run over half a mile more on his previous two outings, including in that victory over The New One.
More recently the Nicholls-trained horse lost out to Annie Power at Ascot but two prior course and distance victories, including in last year’s renewal, outline the competitive task awaiting the jewel of the Twiston-Davies stable.
Victory in this event would undoubtedly further the Champion Hurdle claims of the latter with the current ante-post favourite 3/1 to win the Festival curtain raiser.
And with Khyber Kim taking the International crown for his saddler in 2007, The New One’s camp have history in this crucial clash.
There’s no doubt that he’ll be difficult to pick up and an impressive outing at Kempton on his seasonal reappearance showed he was suffering no ill effects from an extended break.
Those searching for value would be better advised to perhaps side with Evan Williams’ Court Minstrel, an interesting 14/1 selection and previous Grade Two winner.
Rated 149, the six-year-old has plenty to find with the market principals who can’t be separated on 167.
Williams’ hopeful will probably need a career-best performance and some luck to see off The New One and Zarkandar.
But his trainer is unlikely to mind too much about being behind two class acts who will continue to compete at hurdling’s highest level once this affair is settled.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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