Zarkandar (pink): beat Grandouet (right) and Rock On Ruby (left)

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (  

Star hurdlers shake up Champion Hurdle

THE battle of the Champion Hurdle contenders may have been won on Saturday at Cheltenham by Zarkandar, but the war is far from over with Grandouet and Rock On Ruby losing little in defeat.

Zarkandar, who completed a four-timer for Paul Nicholls at Prestbury Park, was made a general 6-1 chance (from 8) by bookmakers, with Hurricane Fly the 5-1 favourite.

Grandouet, having his first start for over a year was only beaten two lengths, and Nicky Henderson's representative is also now as short as 6-1 in places having been 10-1 at the start of the day.

Ladbrokes halved Grandouet to 6-1 (from 12) and spokesman David Williams said: "We felt Grandouet was certainly the horse to take out of the big race. Zarakandar was backed to win on the day but we feel there could be much better to come from the runner-up."  

Rock On Ruby was eight lengths behind the winner in third, appearing to tire in the heavy ground, and was pushed out to 12-1 by William Hill (from 7).

The market for the Albert Bartlett also changed complexion, with Coneygree now clear favourite with most firms for Mark Bradstock. The five-year-old half-brother to Carruthers remained unbeaten over hurdles in fine style with a six-length success and is a general 7-1 chance from as big as 14.

Four-year-old novice chaser Unioniste made waves with victory in the Paul Stewart IronSpine Gold Cup, and was introduced at 12-1 by Bet365 for the RSA Chase, though 20-1 is available.

Emma Lavelle also scooped a four-timer and two of her winners, Highland Lodge and Court In Motion, were trimmed for the RSA. Cheltenham winner Highland Lodge is now generally 16-1, while Lingfield scorer Court In Motion is a best-priced 25-1 shot.

It was a busy afternoon for the RSA market, with Rocky Creek another to be cut to generally 16-1 from as big as 33 following victory at Doncaster.

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