Nine rivals for Zarkandar
Nicholls ace goes for juvenile double
Last Updated: 06/04/11 1:30pm
Zarkandar: Aintree hopeful
Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar heads a field of 10 in the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree on Thursday.
Paul Nicholls' Azamour gelding will be ridden by Ruby Walsh for the first time as he bids to extend his unbeaten record in Britain.
Grandouet looks the main threat and he has five lengths to find on their Triumph Hurdle form when he was third to Zarkandar.
Houblon Des Obeaux, Local Hero and Third Intention are other beaten horses from the Triumph to reoppose.
Fred Winter runner-up Kumbeshwar takes his chance for Alan King and Dessie Hughes' Launchpad is the sole Irish challenger.
Maoi Chinn Tire, Oriental Cat and Palawi complet the line-up.
Steve Gollings has been delighted with the way Local Hero has come out of the Triumph and he is happy to let him take his chance in another Grade One.
"He's done well since Cheltenham surprisingly, because that was a very hectic race," said the Lincolnshire trainer.
"He missed a couple of hurdles but came out totally unscathed and it was quite surprising as we thought he might come back with a few lumps and bumps.
"He's in good shape. They've all been on the go a fair while but it's the same for all of them. He's holding his own and I wouldn't be running him if I wasn't happy with him.
"I'm sure Aintree will suit him a lot better than Cheltenham and I'm almost certain that long-term he probably wants further.
"He was on his head at Cheltenham and it could be a similar story at Aintree, but the ground will be more in his favour there and I also think it is the wrong time to step him up in trip.
"He could have gone for the Mersey over two and a half on Saturday but that looks a hot race as well. He's only a juvenile once so he might as well take his chance."