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Walsh to partner Zarkandar

Jacob switches to partner Empire Levant

Last Updated: 06/02/12 5:36pm

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Zarkandar: Walsh now takes the ride in Saturday's feature race

Zarkandar: Walsh now takes the ride in Saturday's feature race

Sky Bet

Ruby Walsh now rides Zarkandar in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday after the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase was added to the meeting.

As a result Daryl Jacob switches to stablemate Empire Levant.

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 Scilly Isles would be transferred from last Saturday's abandoned Sandown card to this weekend's fixture at Newbury, and their rules state that Walsh can defer his ban on days where Grade One races are run.

Champion trainer Nicholls said on his Twitter account: "After discussing with owners Ruby now switches to Zarkandar and Daryl Jacob rides Empire Levant."

Walsh was thrilled with the news, taking to Twitter and saying: "Looking like I have got a get out of jail card for Saturday! Grade 1 Scilly Isles is my ticket to at least take part. Happy days."

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Nicholls concedes, though, that Zarkandar has not been trained with Saturday's valuable handicap as his highest priority - although he could still easily turn out to be good enough to win.

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.

Just a five-year-old, Zarkandar won all three starts as a juvenile in Britain last season, taking the Triumph on the second of those and following up at Aintree, but will only be appearing in the second half of the season again, as he has not raced in public since Liverpool.

"Zarkandar could well go and win and looks well-handicapped but whatever happens, win, lose or draw, there will be a lot to come and he has been trained with the Champion Hurdle in mind," said Nicholls.

"He's a hell of a horse to know if he has improved. At home he's workmanlike but on the track he's different. He's been working OK but is obviously better on the track.

"He's had a racecourse gallop and has done plenty but I'm in the dark as much as anyone. He could win and be a good thing, unless he needs the run more than we thought, but he's done enough work. Saturday will tell us a lot more."

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