Zarkandar (right) pictured winning at Aintree in 2011
©Healy Racing Photos
Odds-on favourite Zarkandar ran out a ready winner of the Grade 2 Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton this afternoon.
Sent off the 1/3 market leader, last year's Champion Hurdle fifth prepared for a second tilt at the blue riband contest with a smooth success.
The race begun in earnest as the field headed to two out with Alan King's pair, Raya Star and Balder Succes, both under a ride as the field straightened up.
Paddy Brennan aboard Khyber Kim and Daryl Jacob aboard the favourite were travelling better than anything else and the pair pulled clear in the straight.
Former Aintree Hurdle winner Khyber Kim was never able to get on terms, however, and he made a tired mistake at the last on his first start for 681 days.
Zarkandar extended his advantage in the run to the line from the last flight without being asked too many questions to make it three out of three for the season.
Winning trainer Paul Nicholls was delighted with the performance and told Racing UK: "I was never really happy with him after the Betfair Hurdle last season but this has been different altogether.
"I was a bit surprised when he won so well first time out at Cheltenham as I thought he wanted it but he's obviously a horse that doesn't want too much work so I have tried to just keep him ticking over - they say it takes a couple of years to get to know your horses.
"He does appreciate a test of stamina over two miles but they'll go a good pace in the Champion and that will help. He handles soft ground but as long as it's not quick I will be happy."
Nicholls also expressed his satisfaction with the performance of third-placed Celestial Halo.
"That was his first run for nearly a year and he wasn't fit," said the trainer. "He'll go for the World Hurdle now and he could be an interesting outsider in that."