By Jon Lees
Kalashnikov is in “fabulous form” at home in Newmarket according to trainer Amy Murphy as she moves on to the Cheltenham Festival in the knowledge she may never learn the reason behind the talented novice chaser’s shock defeat at Sandown two weeks ago.
The horse whose only reverse over fences prior to the race came at the hands of Dynamite Dollars in the Wayward Lad at Kempton was sent off at odds of 1-4 to win the rescheduled Kingmaker Novices’ Chase and head to Cheltenham among the favourites for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy.
But Kalashnikov’s jumping was not as slick as the front-running Glen Forsa over the Railway Fences and he laboured from the Pond Fence allowing his opponent to draw away to record a convincing 19-length victory.
The horse who had won last year’s Betfair Hurdle and gone down by just a neck in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was pushed out in the Arkle betting from 5-1 and is now as big as 12-1.
Murphy has found nothing to explain the below par performance so she is sticking to her Arkle plan and will resist the alternative of a run in the two-and-a-half-mile JLT Novices’ Chase, in which the horse is also entered.
“Kalashnikov didn’t even blow after Sandown,” she said. “By the time he got to the winners’ enclosure he had stopped blowing for whatever reason.
“I thought something underlying would come out but thankfully it didn’t and we can go to Cheltenham. For whatever reason on that day he just wasn’t at the races. We will probably never get an answer. We will carry on what we’ve been doing.”
She continued: “He is in fabulous form. Literally we can hardly sit on him at home he is so fresh. He schooled fantastically on Thursday morning.
“We are not changing tack and sticking to the Arkle. If you go back to the past 18 months, his Betfair Hurdle, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle run and his two novice chases he certainly doesn’t lack for speed. He is pretty versatile but I think slower ground would play in our favour if there is rain.”
Kalashnikov provided Murphy with her biggest success in the Betfair Hurdle and so nearly delivered a first Cheltenham Festival victory when leading from the third last only to be headed by Summerville Boy near the line.
“I was hugely proud of him but at the same time to get beaten the way he did was also gutting,” said Murphy.
“On the other hand there are people who have been going to the Festival for 10 or 20 years and have never had a winner and he was our first runner. I have to be grateful he made it into the first four.”