Champion trainer Paul Nicholls disagrees with the bookmakers as he believes Zarkandar remains his chief hope of success in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Nicholls is also responsible for Saphir Du Rheu, who returned to the smaller obstacles with a gutsy success in Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle at the weekend having fallen twice in three attempts over fences this season.
While Nicholls still believes he has a huge future in the chasing sphere, that route has been put on hold for the time being.
Zarkandar was worn down by Reve De Sivola in the Long Walk Hurdle last time and while that rival was behind Saphir Du Rheu at Cheltenham, Nicholls thinks Zarkandar is still his leading contender.
“Long term I still see Saphir Du Rheu as a top-class chaser who could well be heading for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March next year,” Nicholls told his website.
“First though comes the World Hurdle in which we also run Zarkandar, who is arguably our number one contender as he is more streetwise and has much more experience.
“But Saphir Du Rheu has a decent chance, too. There is plenty of improvement to come as I was a little worried that he might be a bit short of fitness going to Cheltenham after a stop start campaign.
“The race will have brought him on and we know now that he stays the trip well.”