DUAL Wetherby winner Kalashnikov will bid to give young trainer Amy Murphy a landmark Grade One victory in today’s Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.
The dual-purpose trainer is one of racing’s rising stars and Jack Quinlan’s mount looks ideally suited for this test.
Winner of a bumper at Wetherby last March, Kalashnikov returned to the West Yorkshire track where he made an impressive hurdling debut on Charlie Hall Chase day last November.
He looked even more the real deal when slamming a useful prospect at Doncaster by 10 lengths and this looks the next logical step.
Newmarket-based Murphy said: “He’s in good order and we’re looking forward to it.
“Obviously it’s a big step up in class, but he’s been very professional in everything he’s done so far.
“The ground is probably softer than ideal, but we’ll have a better idea of where we stand after the race.
“It’s very exciting and to have a horse of his calibre in our first season is brilliant.”
Kalashnikov’s main market rival is the Warren Greatrex-trained Western Ryder, who certainly has the experience edge.
This will be his 10th race, having taken in six bumpers last season, including when he went close at Cheltenham and Aintree.
His hurdling career did not get off to the best of starts when he unseated Richard Johnson at the third flight at Stratford but he got back on track when winning at Chepstow in November.
Western Ryder then showed what he was made of with a gutsy win at Cheltenham, beating the useful Lalor and Summerville Boy, who renews rivalry at Sandown.
Greatrex said: “He won well last time and he won’t mind the ground.
“He seems in really good form at home and it is the next step to see where we are.”
However it should be noted that the Tolworth Hurdle is one of the lesser Grade One races – it’s prize fund is just £50,000 and there’s a case for all races of this stature being worth at least six figures.
Sandown’s card also sees a three mile Veterans Chase that features the 12-year-old Cloudy Too from the High Eldwick yard of Sue and Harvey Smith – Henry Brooke takes the ride.
Meanwhile the Smith stable is due to be represented by the Trevor Hemmings-owned Vintage Clouds in the rearranged Welsh National at Chepstow. Stable jockey Danny Cook will be in the saddle – the bottomless ground will be the biggest handicap for the chaser in this three mile and five furlong test.
The one to beat appears to be the mudlark Mysteree for trainer Michael Scudamore who won the race in 2012 with the ever popular Monbeg Dude whose owners included World Cup-winning rugby union centre Mike Tindall.
“He’s such a laid-back character,” said Scudamore. “He did his final piece of work on Tuesday morning and seems all primed for the big day.
“He does handle very heavy ground. He’ll go on most grounds.
“He certainly looks a bit stronger and is working better than ever. I hope he can keep on the upgrade.”