Kalash­nikov fires early salvo

Ex­cit­ing chaser ce­ments place as Arkle favourite Foot­pad em­barks on fresh cam­paign at Naas

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Racing - By Mar­cus Army­tage RAC­ING COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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

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