Kalashnikov fires early salvo
Exciting chaser cements place as Arkle favourite Footpad embarks on fresh campaign at Naas
Kalashnikov, already 6/1 favourite for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham next March on the back of his smart hurdling form, made an encouraging chasing debut at Warwick yesterday when he beat Huntsman Son by 11 lengths in the Smarkets Novice Chase.
Such an exciting recruit to chasing is bound to have his jumping scrutinised forensically, but apart from being caught a bit by surprise by the first ditch, reaching for it and pitching at one along the side of the course, Kalashnikov looked like he had plenty of scope.
He was responsive to jockey Jack Quinlan’s decision-making, before shaking off the attention of the runner-up from the second-last without being put under serious pressure.
Trainer Amy Murphy, who admitted not watching a lot of the race, said: “It’s like a child’s first day at school – you want them to come back safely and learn plenty. He was about 85 per cent fit because we haven’t been able to get him on the grass at home and he had a nice blow afterwards.”
Thinking aloud about the route the five-year-old will take to Cheltenham in March she added: “He’ll probably have one run before Christmas, one after and go there fresh. The Plumpton bonus [£60,000 for a winner at the track that also wins at the Cheltenham Festival] is at the back of our minds.”
“He made a couple of novicey mistakes,” said Quinlan, “but when I grabbed hold of him he went and popped. It’s the fastest he’s been over a fence and it will have been a big learning curve for him.”
Last year’s Willie Mullins-trained Arkle winner Footpad makes his first start out of the novice ranks in the Poplar Square Chase at Naas this afternoon (12.30), where he faces four rivals. The Harry Whittington-trained Saint Calvados, one of the vanquished from Cheltenham last March – he was beaten 53 lengths into fourth place that day – takes him on again. Footpad is just 4-1 to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase next year.
The main action in Britain is at Wincanton, where the lightly-raced Harry Fry-trained If The Cap Fits can take the Unibet Elite Hurdle (3.00) while the Badger Ales Trophy (3.35) could go to Jonjo O’neill’s Allelu Alleluia. He was impressive in his recent Worcester success, where he won by 10 lengths when wearing blinkers for the first time.
Expert Eye, who a week ago today became the first British winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile since Barathea in 1994, has been retired to Banstead Manor Stud by his owner, Khaled Abdullah. He will stand at a fee of £20,000 and will join, among others, Frankel (£175,000) and Kingman (£75,000). No decision has been made yet about whether Enable, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf, will stay in training.
All systems go: Footpad has just four rivals to beat on his seasonal return