14:30 Aintree – Zarkandar looks good to build on Triumph win
Ruby Walsh seems set to kick off the Aintree Grand National meeting with a quick-fire odds-on double as Zarkandar can secure victory in the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle.
Walsh partners Big Buck’s in the Liverpool Hurdle and he can follow up with another victory in the juvenile hurdle when getting his first spin on board Zarkandar.
Daryl Jacob has ridden Zarkandar to both of his career victories to date, including in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month.
This race has proved the best guide to the Aintree showdown in recent years, with eight of the last 11 winners all having run in the Cheltenham contest.
Katchit was the last horse in 2007 to complete the Triumph Hurdle and Anniversary Hurdle double in the same season, but the manner of Zarkandar’s successes to date suggest that he is capable of a third graded victory in six weeks at 4/5.
The fact that Zarkandar has already won twice over hurdles is another statistic that works in his favour, while the favourite has landed the spoils in five of the last six runnings of the race.
Grandouet is 4/1 and is likely to pose the biggest problem to Zarkandar and can take some positives from his third in the Triumph Hurdle.
Nicky Henderson’s horse may not have been totally at home with the undulations of Cheltenham and there is a strong case that he will be better suited to Aintree.
The very slight drop in trip to two miles may also be in his favour as speed and not stamina has proved his strong point this season.
At a bigger price, Kumbeshwar may be the best of the each-way contenders at 10/1.
Kumbeshwar gave weight to Zarkandar when chasing him home in third at Kempton in February and then produced another fine display in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham under top weight to lose out by a neck to What A Charm.
A £20 stake on Grandouet winning the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle would return £80. New customers can sign up here to take advantage of free bets totalling up to £60.