Kalashnikov returns to the winner’s enclosure after making a successful chase debut at Warwick
All eyes will be on leading Racing Post Arkle contender Kalashnikov when he takes his next step on the road to Cheltenham in the 2m1f novice chase (1.00) at Plumpton.
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up made an encouraging start over fences when winning at Warwick and, at a top price of 6-1, is second only to Lalor in the betting for the Arkle.
Trainer Amy Murphy was pleased with Kalashnikov’s 11-length triumph on his chasing debut but feels there is more to come from her stable star.
“Kalashnikov is in good order,” said Murphy. “I was pleased with his win at Warwick and he’ll definitely come on for that.”
The five-year-old provided Murphy with the biggest victory of her fledgling career when winning the valuable Betfair Hurdle in February and was beaten only a neck by Summerville Boy in the Supreme.
Murphy is mapping Kalashnikov’s campaign around a return to the festival and the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton on December 27 has been mooted as another possible stepping stone.
Murphy said: “We’re taking each race as it comes, but providing he’s safe and sound then Kempton is certainly on our radar. I’m keen to get more experience into him as we work back from the Arkle.”
Plumpton is putting up a £60,000 bonus for any winner of one of the five nominated novice contests – of which this is one – who goes on to glory at the Cheltenham Festival in the same season. The double was last achieved by Voy Por Ustedes in 2006.
Among Kalashnikov’s rivals is the Paul Nicholls-trained Envoye Special, who makes his first start for the master of Ditcheat since moving from France.
Smart bumper performer Acey Milan returns
Acey Milan was the only British-trained horse in the shake-up for last season’s Champion Bumper and ran admirably to finish fourth – sandwiched between a cluster of Willie Mullins runners – and is another big name to grace Plumpton’s seven-race card in the 2m4½f maiden hurdle (12.30).
Sent-off at prohibitive odds of 4-9 to make a successful first foray over hurdles last month, favourite backers were left empty-handed as the Anthony Honeyball-trained four-year-old was outstayed by Truckin Away on heavy ground at Ffos Las.
“It was a hard enough race first time out on heavy ground at Ffos Las and the tank just emptied late on, but I was really impressed with the way he jumped there and he’ll be a better proposition for the run,” said the trainer.
“I thought he’d take a lot of beating that day, but looking back I’m not disappointed. He’s schooled well since and I think he’ll win here.”
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