Kalashnikov’s unbeaten run may have ended on Saturday, but Amy Murphy’s belief in her stable star remains resolute.
The five-year-old had been triumphant in his three previous outings prior to the 32Red Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.
The Tom George-trained Summerville Boy ended that winning sequence, but on far from ideal heavy ground, Kalashnikov acquitted himself well after a slow start, gamely chasing down the winner before eventually finishing four lengths adrift in second.
Newmarket’s youngest trainer Murphy, who was making her debut in Grade 1 company, said: “To start with it looked like he was running with lead weights tied around his feet.
“He was not travelling with the same enthusiasm we have seen from him previously.
“But to come through and finish in second spot shows he has everything to be a top class horse — it was his heart that got him there.
“He is showing plenty of good signs and it was great that he was in such good order on Sunday. He ate up and was very happy with himself.”
The next major assignment on the agenda will be March’s Cheltenham Festival, with Murphy ultimately eyeing up a tilt at either the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
“The decision as to which way we go will depend on the ground,” she said.
“I would love to run him on good to soft.”