Amy Murphy admits the change of venue might not be ideal for Kalashnikov as he bids to get back on the winning trail in the rescheduled Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Sandown on Friday.
The Grade Two contest looked to have been lost after last week’s outbreak of equine flu led to the abandonment of racing at Warwick, but the British Horseracing Authority moved swiftly to save this and several other key trials for next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Kalashnikov – runner-up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park last March – is this season a major contender for the Arkle Trophy having won his first two starts over fences before being beaten by the now-sidelined Dynamite Dollars in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
However, the switch from Warwick to Sandown for his latest assignment could be a hindrance as the twice Kalashnikov has raced right-handed – at Kempton in December and in last season’s Tolworth Hurdle at this track – he has been beaten.
Murphy said: “He’s in great form – we’re delighted with him at home.
“We’d love to be going left-handed, but it’s either run here or don’t run him at all before Cheltenham.
“It’s not like he has a problem going right-handed, I just think he prefers going the other way.
“It looks a competitive little race, but whatever happens he’ll learn plenty – jumping round a track like Sandown – and it’s a nice gap between this race and Cheltenham.”
Kalashnikov is the star name in a four-strong field, but might not have things all his own way.
Glen Forsa steps up in class having won successive handicap chases at Chepstow and Kempton for Mick Channon, who expects to have a clearer idea of his gelding’s ambitions after this race.
“We need to get another run in if we want to go to Cheltenham,” said the former England striker.
“He’s in great form and we’re very hopeful he’ll run well tomorrow.
“He’s in everything at Cheltenham – the Arkle, the JLT and the Close Brothers (Novices’ Handicap Chase).
“We should have a better idea of where we’re going after this.”
The JP McManus-owned Dalila Du Seuil represents trainer Harry Fry.
The grey competed at Grade One level over hurdles in her native France and made a smart start to her career over fences with a successful British debut at Exeter in December.
She is rated just 3lb inferior to Kalashnikov, but receives a 7lb mares’ allowance.
Fry said: “She was going to run in a mares’ race last Friday, but obviously couldn’t because of the equine flu.
“She had good form over hurdles in France and we were hoping if she could translate that to fences, she would go very well at Exeter and she did it well on the day.
“This is obviously a big leap up for her. We’re having a go and we’ll find out if she’s up to it.”
Gary Moore’s Dell Oro completes the quartet.