Zarkandar triumphs for Nicholls
Zarkandar gave champion trainer Paul Nicholls a second success in the JCB Triumph Hurdle when landing an emphatic triumph in the opening race on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Daryl Jacob brought the French-bred half-brother to the brilliant Zarkava with a devastating burst to lead on the long run to the final flight.
The 13-2 shot had far too many guns for the opposition as he bounded two and a quarter lengths clear of Irish filly Unaccompanied, with Grandouet a further two and three-quarter lengths away in third.
Jacob said: "I have to thank the owners for keeping me on him after he'd won the last day.
"He took me into the race so easy. I was very impressed with him the last day and he is very tough."
Nicholls added: "I loved him the first time I saw him at the Aga Khan's sale but he was very difficult when he first arrived and he was a challenge.
"We cut him (gelded him) and it turned him inside out.
"I felt he was next year's horse but I'm delighted. He'll be some horse with another summer on his back.
"I am pleased to provide a winner for Daryl Jacob - he's worked so hard and just missed out on a few winners this week.
"It will mean so much to him."
Nicholls added: "He surprised me at Kempton, but you never know what you've got until they run.
"I was pleased to see Alan King's horse (Kumbeshwar) run so well the other day, so the form was rock-solid.
"He jumps well and he's got loads of speed. We always do an awful lot of schooling at home so though he'd only had one race, he'd jumped hundreds at home.
"When we schooled at home on grass he was brilliant and I was very excited."
The Ditcheat handler was, however, slightly bemused by the performance of stablemate Sam Winner.
The 4-1 favourite, ridden by Ruby Walsh, looked well out of contention before staying on strongly at the death to take fourth spot.
Nicholls added: "I don't know what happened to Sam Winner but it looked like he missed the break and got behind early before running on strongly.
"He wants further and I can't wait to run him over fences."
Dermot Weld has grand designs for runner-up Unaccompanied after her brave effort in defeat.
He said: "She ran a super race. She stays well and I suppose the winner didn't do us a lot of favours coming to the last.
"I think she's a mare you're going to hear a lot more of and we will probably run in the Salsabil Stakes at Navan in a few weeks' time.
"After that she'll go for the Grade One novice hurdle at Punchestown."