Jack Quinlan is confident he will be on board a ‘real live contender’ during next week’s Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Newmarket-based jockey is set to partner Amy Murphy’s Kalashnikov in the Grade 1 race — the pair having already chalked up four victories from a possible five.
The most recent of those triumphs came in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month, when the five-year-old stayed on strongly to get the better of Willie Mullins’ Bleu Et Rouge.
Tuesday’s assignment in Gloucestershire is bound to be an even tougher affair, but Quinlan is confident the son of Kalanisi has what it takes to prosper.
“Cheltenham is like the Olympics of our sport,” said the 25-year-old.
“It is about the best of the best: The best horses, the best trainers and the best jockeys.
“It is tough, but he deserves to be there. He won the Betfair Hurdle and that is no mean feat.
“He is a real horse on the up and he goes down there as a real live contender to win.”
Currently the 9/2 third-favourite with the bookmakers, Quinlan is adamant Kalashnikov would be the market leader were he to have a bigger-named jockey in the saddle and be part of a more-established trainer’s string.
As it is, Hamilton Road-based Murphy — the country’s youngster trainer — is only in her second year with a licence, while Quinlan has never previously been involved with such a high-profile horse but they do not feel at a disadvantage.
In fact, it suits the pair just fine, with Quinlan saying: “If he was trained by the likes of Willie Mullins or Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, I am certain he would be the favourite — he is that good.
“He is a horse with a massive amount of natural ability and when he opens up he covers so much ground.
“But we are not complaining about that. It takes the pressure off and allows us to go about our business more quietly.”
And, of his blossoming relationship with Murphy, Quinlan added: “I owe everything to Amy and her father Paul (Kalashnikov’s owner).
“This is her second season training and she was always going to make a bright start with the experience she has had around the world.
“When trainers are starting out, it would be easy for them to go for the most established jockeys — a safe pair of hands to get them results.
“But Amy has shown so much faith in me and I cannot thank her enough.
“Hopefully I can pay her back with a win at Cheltenham.”