Author: Will Smith
Published: 12:25 21/08/2014
Entries for the Betfred Cesarewitch were made yesterday, the second leg of the prestigious Autumn double. The race has a fascinating history, due perhaps to its idiosyncratic nature.
It is an exceptionally tough contest, which certainly suits a specific type of horse. Given the extreme distance (2m2f), spanning two counties and across undulating terrain, you need the hardiest of horses to prosper.
Not only that, given there is always 30+ runners, the first portion of the race is a cavalry charge to obtain a position. So you also need a horse with tactical pace.
The roll call of winners recently is littered with dual purpose performers, or those trained by almost exclusively jumps yards. Recommending an ante-post bet at such an early stage would usually be tricky, but the early shows have vastly underplayed a horse that fits all the criteria in my eye.
Zarkandar has finished fourth in a Champion Hurdle and also filled the same position in last year’s World Hurdle. He is as tough as teak, has more than sufficient natural speed to cope with early exchanges, and will easily stay the trip.
Unraced on the flat since joining Paul Nicholls in November 2010, he previously raced three times for Alain De Royer-Dupre on the flat in France, which is where his allotted BHA handicap mark of 88 comes from. That is way short of his latent ability.
It is pleasing to hear Nicholls admit that the extremely valuable Betfred Cesarewitch is an early target, and that Zarkandar has been in full work for a while now.
Not only that, previous dual Cesarewitch winner Aaim To Prosper joined Nicholls for a hurdle campaign and won off a hurdles mark of 124, compared with his best Cesarewitch-winning mark of 107. Zarkandar is a 150+ hurdle horse, whereas he would be getting nearly two stone from Aaim To Prosper on the flat.
The main danger at this early stage would appear to be easy Galway winner Quick Jack. Tony Martin’s rapidly improving horse has to give 6lbs to Zarkandar, whereas as yet, he is nowhere near the level of ability that Paul Nicholls’ horse has shown over timber.
Ladbrokes offer 14/1, which is bigger than anywhere else in the betting village. They often take a specific stand about various horses, and while they clearly are happy to lay Zarkandar, I am willing to prove them wrong.
Cesarewitch (11th October 2014):
Zarkandar – 14/1 (Ladbrokes)