CHELTENHAM Festival runner-up Kalashnikov overcame a mistake at the first open ditch to make a winning start to his chasing career and land the feature Novices’ Chase at Warwick’s Sporting Icon Raceday last Friday, writes David Hucker.
Very much the star of Amy Murphy’s Newmarket stable, Kalashnikov has been touted as the winner of the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at next year’s festival and he got the job done here in the hands of Jack Quinlan, recovering from his mistake at the open ditch to fly the fence after and put up a solid display on his first run over the bigger obstacles.
There was drama at the first flight in the opening Juvenile Hurdle, with Carnage falling and bringing down another outsider in Keynote, both horses being quickly on their feet and chasing after the other runners.
Up front, odds-on favourite Elysees, the choice from three entries for in-form trainer Alan King, was struggling to keep tabs on leader Bodes Well.
Pushed along down the back straight by Wayne Hutchinson, he led on the turn for home and, with his stamina kicking in, quickly put the race to bed to beat debutant Isaac Wonder.
It was the experienced De Name Evades Me who set the standard in the following Novices’ Hurdle, having finished second to the useful Dinons at Cheltenham last month and punters sent him off the 10-11 favourite to go one better.
Although beaten 14 lengths, the winner was completing a five-timer that day and De Name Evades Me duly stepped up, going past leader Balach Mor at the penultimate flight and staying on to beat Captain Cargo, described by his trainer Caroline Bailey as a ‘chaser in the making’ and ‘one to note for the future’.
One of the features of the season has been the resurgence of trainer Philip Hobbs who, after posting four consecutive centuries, managed only 63 winners in 2017/18.
He came into the meeting with 31 on the board already for the current campaign and added to his tally when Tom O’Brien brought Master Work to join leader Chief Brody at the final flight in the Handicap Hurdle and come away on the run-in for a two-length success.
The three miles and a furlong trip for the Handicap Chase proved just right for Gardiners Hill who was returning to fences after a good run over hurdles at Ffos Las last time.
A winner of three consecutive chases on soft and heavy ground in early 2017, Gardiners Hill has struggled since, but a drop in his handicap rating helped him see off veteran Ganbei by five lengths.
Jarlath repeated his win of 12 months ago when landing the Handicap Chase to give O’Brien a riding double on the day before Printing Dollars and Sam Waley-Cohen came out of the gathering gloom to take the concluding George Mernagh Memorial Mares’ NH Flat Race.