One gallop convinces Murphy of King’s desire to make the grade

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IT may only have been one racecourse gallop – but it was enough to convince Ferdy Murphy that his stable star Kalahari King will be a genuine Grade One contender this winter.

As the 10-year-old pulled clear of his illustrious stablemates, Murphy ventured to suggest that the horse is in “the form of his life” ahead of a comeback race that will dictate this season’s plans.

It was particularly pleasing for both Murphy and the horse’s owners Neil and Julie Morgan, coming after Kalahari King was pulled up in April’s John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree in a race that was ultimately won by the brilliant Master Minded.

Placed at four successive Cheltenham Festivals, including a gallant second to the AP McCoy-inspired Albertas Run in the Ryanair Chase in March, this two-mile, five-furlong race remains the obvious long-term target for Kalahari King whose greatest success came in April 2009 when winning the Grade One John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase on Grand National day at Aintree.

“He worked fantastically well and looks to have come back better than ever,” said Murphy. “We couldn’t be happier with him at the moment and we’ve a few options where we could start him off. There might be a race at Kelso, there is the Old Roan at Aintree or the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot.

“After he runs in one of those, the plan is to go to Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase.”

Kalahari King was joined by eight stable companions for the workout, with each testing Carlisle’s all-new hurdle track. They included the Paddy Power Gold Cup-bound Divers, winner of the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

“Divers is in good form and the Paddy Power is the plan for him, but he might run at Carlisle beforehand in the Colin Parker Memorial,” said Murphy. “We’ll just see how he goes over the next few weeks and make a decision on whether he needs a prep run from there.”

Although not part of the Carlisle team, last season’s Grand National seventh, Big Fella Thanks, is being readied for the new campaign with a return to Aintree for November’s Becher Chase on his agenda.

Mick Easterby’s Hoof It may struggle to make his autumn targets after losing one of his shoes when out in the field.

The four-year-old sprinter, who the trainer co-owns with golfer Lee Westwood and sports agent Chubby Chandler, has not done any work this week.

“The toe clip went through the sole of his foot,” said Easterby’s son and assistant David. “We have had the vet and blacksmith out and it is just a case of wait and see.”

Hoof It has been earmarked for Longchamp’s Prix de l’Abbaye on October 2 or the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes on October 15.

The latter, Britain’s richest ever day of racing, will be attended by the Queen, prompting speculation that her Dante winner Carlton House – not seen since finishing third in the Epsom Derby – will be a contender.

Yorkshire trainers could be mob-handed in the Melbourne Cup after Mark Johnston confirmed that Fox Hunt is likely to join stablemate, and Irish St Leger winner Jukebox Jury, on a trip to Australia.

Fox Hunt staked his claim for a place on the plane with victory in Sunday’s German version, but the Middleham trainer first wants confirmation that the four-year-old will make the final field on November 1.

“Provided he gets in, he’s going to go for the Melbourne Cup,” said Johnston as Malton handler Brian Ellison prepares to fly Ebor winner Moyenne Corniche, and stablemate Saptapadi, Down Under later today.