Kalashnikov maintained his unbeaten record over fences with a near faultless display in a novice chase at Plumpton on Monday.
After making a successful chasing debut at Warwick, last year’s Betfair Hurdle winner and Supreme runner-up had little trouble adding to that win in Monday’s two-mile-one-furlong race.
Easing into the lead heading out of the back straight for the second time, the 1-7 favourite eventually cruised home a convincing 18-length winner to qualify for a £60,000 bonus should he go on and triumph at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Following the race, Amy Murphy’s five-year-old was cut from 5/1 into 9/2 joint-favourite for the Arkle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival by Paddy Power.
His Newmarket trainer said: “That was fantastic, and I’m absolutely delighted – not that I watched a lot of it, but it sounded very good. (Jockey) Jack (Quinlan) was ecstatic coming in.
“Fitness wise, he was sharper and he learnt a lot at Warwick, and he was pretty much foot perfect out there today. He has had the height of Warwick, and it is trappy round here (as well), and going over the downhill fence will stand him in good stead. It is exciting for the future for a team of our size.”
Murphy hopes all roads will lead to Cheltenham in March, of course, but has identified other targets en route – starting with Kempton over Christmas.
“He will all being well go to Kempton for the Wayward Lad – then either Doncaster, or Warwick for the Kingmaker. You are looking at two more runs before Cheltenham. Dad (Paul Murphy, owner) has never seen him win, so we have got that superstition out of the way.
“I think the Arkle market is hotting up all the time – and come March, please God I hope they all turn up. Nothing would give me more pleasure than giving my dad a Cheltenham Festival winner.”
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