Amy Murphy is planning a high-profile spring campaign for stable star Kalashnikov – although his participation in the Ryanair Chase is less likely than a trip to Aintree next month.
The former Betfair Hurdle and Grade One novice chase winner lost his way a little a year ago but, following wind surgery last September, has run very well on his two most recent starts – including when third in the Denman Chase, up to three miles, at Newbury two weeks ago
Murphy said: “He’s in very good form. We were delighted, and he definitely stayed the three miles.
“We’ve obviously been riding him a little bit patiently. I think it’s safe to say he’s got his confidence back now, and he’ll be ridden much more in the thick of it the next day.
“We’re happy to wait for Aintree, but he’ll stay in the Ryanair (for now) just in case.
“It’ll be a last-minute decision. It will just depend how he trains over the next 10 days.”
Kalashnikov’s principal target at this stage is back at Aintree – where he won the Manifesto Novices’ Chase in 2019 – and Murphy will choose between the Melling Chase over two and a half miles and Betway Bowl, over an extended three.
“It will be the Melling or the three-mile race (Betway Bowl),” she said.
“We’ve no concerns about the three miles, absolutely not, definitely not round there.
“I think if anything he galloped all the way to the line the other day, looking like he needed three miles.
“It’s great to have him anywhere near back to his best – and healthwise, he’s in tip-top order, which is fantastic.”
While Kalashnikov may not line up at Cheltenham, Murphy is preparing her “proper mare” Really Super to take on the mighty challenge from either side of the Irish Sea at the Festival.
Murphy’s heroine of the Summer Plate at Market Rasen was an easy winner of a jumpers’ bumper at Lingfield during last month’s freeze-up, and the Newmarket trainer is confident she will do herself proud if ground conditions are in her favour for the inaugural running of the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase.
Really Super, who will be representing enthusiastic ownership syndicate White Diamond Racing, will need to lower some stellar colours among her rivals – currently including Willie Mullins’ two prolific winners Elimay and Colreevy at the top of the market.
Her trainer is nonetheless keen to take up the challenge.
“We definitely will (run), as long as the ground allows,” said Murphy.
“She’s a proper mare, and we gave her a little spin in a jumpers’ bumper after her winter break, just to get her back to full fitness.
“It worked really well for her. We’d planned to give her a racecourse gallop a week later, but we thought we’d take advantage of the jumpers’ bumpers while they were there.
“She couldn’t have done it any more easily, so we’re very excited about her – if it’s not at Cheltenham, then for the season ahead.
“She was a very good winner of the Summer Plate, and top of the ground is absolutely key to her.
“She wouldn’t run if it came up anything other than good to soft or better.”
The Festival is very much at the top of the agenda for the seven-year-old, though, and the only regret is that coronavirus restrictions will prevent her owners from being in attendance.
Murphy said: “It’s such a shame, because for a syndicate of that size, how many times do you get a horse going to Cheltenham? It’s not as if she’s going there as a massive outsider either.
“It’s really unfortunate. But they’ll throw a good zoom party!
“They adore her. For what we paid for her, she’s been nothing but superb. She’s won on the Flat, over hurdles and fences multiple times.
“We’re very lucky to have her.”