Paul Nicholls believes Zarkandar is right back on track after the five-year-old got the better of stablemate Prospect Wells in the totepool.com Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.
After a disappointing season last time out, in which he finished fifth in the Champion's Hurdle at Cheltenham and fell at Aintree, the diminutive 100/30 shot showed that class is permanent with a determined display under Daryl Jacob.
Despite giving 2/1 favourite Prospect Wells a 17lb advantage, Zarkandar passed his rival two flights from home and buckled down on the run-in to resist the latter's final thrust.
Ditcheat trainer Nicholls was full of praise for the winner, who was cut to 10/1 from 12s for the 2013 Champion Hurdle by William Hill.
"He's done well, really well," said Nicholls. "I never had him looking as good as this for the whole of last season – in the last fortnight he's just suddenly picked up.
"Zarkandar will now go for the Bula [the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December], that's the race we've been training him for, then we'll look to bring him back to Wincanton for the Kingwell in the new year.
"Prospect Wells is a rattling good handicapper and run up to his best, it's a shame there had to be a loser. A trip further will suit him."
Nicholls completed a double when the Ruby Walsh-ridden Foggy's Wall (9/2) grittily held off God's Own in the final race, the result being upheld after a steward's inquiry.
"He won't run for six weeks, then he'll go hurdling," said Nicholls of the winner. "I'm in no rush with him at all."