Ruby reprieve on Zakandar

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Ruby Walsh has come in for the plum ride on Zarkandar in Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle after a change to the Newbury card which allows the rider to defer a suspension that originally ruled him out of action this weekend.

Paul Nicholls’ number one jockey picked up a three-day ban at Cheltenham last month and as there was originally no Grade One race on the ‘Betfair Super Saturday’ card, he was set to be on the sidelines.

However, after the British Horseracing Authority announced that the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase would be transferred from last Saturday’s abandoned Sandown card to this weekend’s fixture at Newbury, BHA rules state that Walsh can defer his ban on days where Grade One races are run.

Champion trainer Nicholls concedes, though, that Zarkandar has not been trained with Saturday’s valuable handicap as his highest priority.

Last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner is not far off being second favourite for the Champion Hurdle itself and the first Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival is when Nicholls wants him at his peak.