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Amy Murphy's stable star Kalashnikov looking to go one better at this year's Cheltenham Festival

Neither trainer Amy Murphy nor jockey Jack Quinlan harbour any doubts with regard to Kalashnikov’s ability to be a competitive force at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

Back in December the six-year-old, who went agonisingly close to landing the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago, was installed as the joint favourite with the bookmakers to land Tuesday’s Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase following an 18-length victory at Plumpton.

However, his defeat to Glen Forsa at Sandown Park on February 15 has seen many pundits write off Kalashnikov’s chances, with his odds being lengthened to 10/1.

Amy Murphy, Jack Quinlan, Kalashnikov. (7585757)
Amy Murphy, Jack Quinlan, Kalashnikov. (7585757)

But Murphy – one of the sport’s youngest trainers – is not entertaining any suggestion that her stable star is anything but a contender, be it in the Arkle or the other Grade 1 race he holds an entry for – Thursday’s JLT Novices’ Chase.

“He is fine after the run at Sandown and has been in very good order,” she said. “I still have a lot of faith in the horse – that has not changed because of one bad run.

“We never wanted to run him on a right-handed track but we did not have any choice. He is better suited to left hand turns, which Cheltenham has.

“Some people have very short memories, but we have nothing but belief in the horse.”

Quinlan, who has been in the saddle for all 10 of Kalashnikov’s outings (six wins), is in agreement with the Southgate Stables-based trainer.

“If we go down the Arkle route it looks to be a very open race and there is probably five, six or maybe even seven horses in contention,” he said.

“Perhaps because it is so competitive it takes a little bit of the pressure off but I would not want to be on any other horse in the race. You cannot ignore the last race at Sandown but he has been perfect since then.

“Others might have lost a bit of confidence in him but we certainly have not. He is the same old Kalashnikov and he knows how good he is.

“He is the first really good horse I have been associated with and that is what we get involved in the sport for. It does not stop the hunger, it makes you want it even more.”

The Murphy and Quinlan combination was also in action on Saturday at Newbury, with Merican Prince in the William Hill Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase, but the son of Midnight Legend finished eighth.

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