Walk In The Park For Zarkandar At Ascot

Long Walk Hurdle

Outright Betting

Despite only five runners making the line-up for Saturday’s Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot (2.25), there is plenty of quality on show via the likes of 5/4 favourite, Zarkandar.

Paul Nicholls’ 7yo is a four-time Grade 1 winner having won the fourth of those in France last month (3m, soft), in the process proving himself over a trip this far. There were doubts as to whether Zarkandar was a stayer having finished fourth in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham (beaten 8l), but he was held up to get the trip that day before keeping on late.

True, Saturday’s distance is over 3m1f over a stiff track, but the manner in which Zarkandar was driven clear in France suggests he won’t find the extra furlong a problem. He also hails from the Nicholls yard that won this race three times since 2004…

Trends Summary
Of the last 10 Long Walk Hurdle winners…

10 won 26% or more of their career hurdle runs
10 made the top three last time
9 ran once during the last 90 days (31%) – others were 1-49 (2%)
9 raced in a Grade 1 previously
8 returned 6/1 or shorter (32%) – others were 2-53 (3%)
8 were officially rated 149 or higher
8 arrived via Newbury (6) or Ascot (2)
P Nicholls won it three times, N Williams twice

Zarkandar will face tough competition in the shape of Alan King’s Medinas (4/1), however, who also arrives at Ascot in fine fettle having won a Grade 2 at Newbury three weeks ago (3m, soft). Medinas surprised a few people in beating the reigning World Hurdle winner, More Of That, by 25l on that occasion, though he did take advantage of the strong pace set in arriving late.

On a positive note, the Newbury race Medinas won has proven a good pointer for this race down the years, while the negative surrounds his inconsistency, having lost six times prior to that Newbury win.

Reve De Sivola
Reve De Sivola is also amongst the main contenders for Saturday at 4/1, and returns in an attempt to make it three straight victories in the race. The concern is his current form as he has plenty to prove having finished well beaten in his last five outings, including when beaten 18l by Zarkandar in France last month.

One who has shown better recent form is Nick Williams’ 5yo, Aubusson, who is improving fast and was an impressive Grade 2 winner at Haydock last month (3m, soft). While he still has a bit to prove at the top level, that victory last time was his first attempt over 3m and it would be hard to imagine there isn’t more to come.

Dell’ Arca completes the line-up and has form at this level having been a 2l third in a Grade 1 at Aintree in April (2m4f, good to soft). The question is whether he will stay this trip, hence why he lines-up as the outsider of the five runners at 10/1.

Recommended Bets
It’s interesting to note that the majority of past winners of this race had just the one run during the previous 90 days prior to Ascot, and only one runner fits that profile on Saturday, his name, Zarkandar.