Zarkandar leads the Aintree Hurdle fieldZarkandar rallied bravely to deny The New One in the John Smith's Aintree Hurdle.

Ruby Walsh was allowed an uncontested lead on the Champion Hurdle fourth, who was equipped with blinkers for the first time on British soil.

Crack novice The New One was sent off the 11-4 favourite to add to his Cheltenham Festival success and loomed up menacingly to take the lead off Zarkandar early in the straight, but Walsh had saved a bit on Paul Nicholls' 11-2 chance and he stayed on strongly to get back up by half a length.

Nicholls said: "He wore blinkers before we had him as he was so colty. I thought we might put them on in the Champion Hurdle but while he kept winning I left them off.

"I felt he gave up too easy in the Champion Hurdle. I put them on at home three days ago and he was just like a different animal. There was a phenomenal improvement.

"He'll be going over a trip next year. We tried this year and he lacked a bit of pace. He stayed really well today and he's bred to. Today was the first step up. We'll probably start him over two and a half at Ascot next year and work up from there. Ultimately I see him as a three-miler in time."

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said of The New One: "The horse has run a superb race. He'd won everywhere except the last 100 yards and dropping back to two miles will probably help him. The champion hurdlers ought to be worried next year."

Willie Mullins, trainer of third-placed Thousand Stars, said: "I'm delighted with him and I think he has run well up to his mark. That's a nice prep for Punchestown."