Kalashnikov fires home in £155,000 Betfair Hurdle for Amy Muprhy
Newmarket's Amy Muprhy was left celebrating the biggest win of her fledgling trainer career after Kalashnikov romped to victory in the showpiece of 'Betfair Super Saturday' at Newbury.
The novice was an impressive winner of the £155,000 Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle, Britain's biggest handicap hurdle, leaving town trainer Murphy as only the third female to land the prestigious two-mile contest after Nan Kennedy (Ra Nova 1984) and Jessica Harrington (Sprint Leader 2003).
Five-year-old Kalashnikov, who is owned by her trainer's father, Paul Murphy, had won three of his four starts going into this afternoon's race, which he was entered into in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival.
Settled in mid-division, Kalashnikov, the 8/1 co-favourite saddled by Jack Quinlan, made significant progress three flights from home and took up the running approaching two out.
He staying on strongly after the last to score by four-and-a-half-lengths from Irish challenger Bleu Et Rouge (Willie Mullins/Barry Geraghty 10/1), with another eight lengths back to the third Spiritofthegames (Dan Skelton/Bridget Andrew 20/1).
A delighted Amy Murphy said: "It's unbelievable - I am lost for words!
"I couldn't see him in the early part of the race but when they turned in I could see what was left of his mud-splattered white face.
"He proved that he had every right to come here after the Tolworth and novices have such a good chance in this race. I thought that we should come and have a crack at it because he wouldn't have a weight like this again.
"I think he has proved that he can go for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham now. He would have had a hard race on that ground - although he has done it nicely, I am sure that it will have taken a bit out of him. I think it will be all systems go for Cheltenham as he has proved that he can handle a big competitive field and he has every right to be there.
"I think the better the ground, the better it is for him. He is such a lovely-actioned horse that I think he will only improve for it.
"We have loved him from day one and the good ones train themselves - I just have to hang on daily.
"I wish my father was here today but he's actually in the air on the way to South Africa. Hopefully, he will be straight on the phone when he lands.
"He was one of the biggest horses in the paddock today and is a lovely, big chasing type and that is what he is bred for, being from the family of Kicking King. Anything he is doing now is a huge bonus."
The trainer who only started out on her own after working under Luca Cumani in 2016, added: "Jack (Quinlan, jockey) is so under-rated and I always get angry that he doesn't get more rides. He is such a good jockey and has formed a really good partnership with this horse. They are going places together."
Quinlan said: "Kalashnikov is a horse that we think an awful lot of and, on good to soft ground, we would have really fancied him. The rain was a bit of a worry because he got a bit bogged down in the heavy at Sandown and, to be fair to him, he hasn't enjoyed it through the first mile.
"His class has brought him through - he is just so tough and brave in those conditions. He is only a five-year-old and that was only his fifth start, so he's entitled to mature all the time and he has improved since Sandown.
"It's fantastic and both Amy and her father have been wonderful to me. They have shown great loyalty and faith in me. With Amy being a young trainer starting out, it would have been easy to put the horse into the hands of someone more experienced on the big days. It makes our job as a jockey much easier going out there if you know you have the confidence of the connections behind you.
"We have loved him from day one and he has continued to improve with every run. You see the size of him and how well he has jumped out there - he is going to be even better over fences next year.
"I rode some good horses for Mr (John) Ferguson when he was training, including a Grade 2 win on Cotton Mill, but today is the biggest win of my career."