The Cheltenham Festival has always been an option for Amy Murphy’s Kalashnikov, but now she could have two horses in contention at March’s jump racing extravaganza, writes Liam Apicella.
Having clung on to land the totescoop6 Play Today Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Saturday afternoon, Murphy’s Mercian Prince may now line up for the Festival’s Grade 3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase.
The Hamilton Road-based trainer said: “It was heavy at Wetherby so it was far from his ideal, but we still expected him to win — he just would have won much easier had it been more suitable ground.
“He is improving all the time and we are delighted with him.
“He will probably go for the Plate if he goes to Cheltenham. We might look at Newbury a little bit before — it is a decision we need to make but either way he is in good order.
“He is off the right sort of mark for that race at Cheltenham. It is hugely exciting to have a horse of his calibre in the yard.”
As for Kalashnikov, the five-year-old is set to be in action on Saturday in Newbury’s Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle (3.35pm).
And Murphy is hoping that it stays dry for the son of Kalanisi, who has won on three of his four outings.
“Touch wood he runs on Saturday in the Betfair,” added the young trainer.
“We are looking for him to win. The race has got a very good strike rate with novices and he will never get in it again, so we may as well go and take our chance.
“Hopefully it is a dry week because the better the ground the better it is for him.”
Kalashnikov has early entries for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.