Friday, March 30, 2012

Nicholls aiming big guns at Aintree Hurdle

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has revealed that he intends to run both the Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby and his stable companion Zarkandar in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle at the Festival meeting next week in a contest that is shaping up to be an absolute cracker, writes Elliot Slater.
Bookmakers have installed Rock On Ruby as the 9/4 marginal market leader with Stan James for the two-and-a-half-mile contest, a bigger price than many punters might have anticipated after witnessing his authoritative success over Overturn and Hurricane Fly in the championship contest at Cheltenham last month. Some observers have expressed concern that the Aintree track, (rather than the step up in trip), might be against Nicholls’ charge who was a distant third at the meeting 12 months ago behind Spirit Son.
Nicholls however believes his champion will take all the beating, and insists the horse is far stronger and mentally tougher than at this time last season. For his part, Zarkandar met with his first ever hurdles defeat when fifth behind his stable companion in the Champion Hurdle, clearly getting outpaced at a critical stage of the contest before finishing with some purpose up the Cheltenham hill. In another few strides he might well have grabbed third place, so the extra half-mile at Aintree appears set to suit him ideally.
A brilliant winner of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on his previous outing where his stamina once again saved the day as he recovered from a seemingly impossible position approaching two out to get on top close home to beat Get Me Out Of Here in a memorable finish, punters who bet on racing can back the half-brother to the mighty Flat racer Zarkava at 7/2 in a race in which Oscar Whisky, winner of the contest 12 months ago, is priced up the 5/2 second favourite.

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