Newbury Betfair Hurdle And Warwick's Kingmaker Chase Review: Kalashnikov Fires Warning At Supreme Novice Hurdle Rivals With Victory

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Newbury’s valuable Betfair Hurdle is fast becoming something of a lucrative contest for the younger brigade as Saturday’s winner Kalashnikov was the seventh by a novice in the last nine years. It wasn’t just a victory for the five-year-old 8-1 co-favourite but also the 25-year-old Amy Murphy, the youngest trainer in Britain who acquired her undoubted talent with spells as assistant to Gai Waterhouse in Australia and Luca Cumani at Newmarket.

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The four and a half length win, in appalling conditions, by Jack Quinlan’s mount was even more commendable as the only previous defeat by the son of Kalanisi had come on heavy ground in Sandown’s Tolworth Hurdle last month. In what had looked one of the most open renewals in the race’s 55-year history the outcome rested just between Kalashnikov and the Willie Mullins-trained Bleu Et Rouge jumping the last, with the former staying on too strongly for the Irish raider.

While the winner’s Cheltenham Festival target is not set in stone, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle looks the obvious way to go, of which the horse’s euphoric trainer said: “ I think we’ll stick to the Supreme, he’s given us no reason to go anywhere else and I think he has to stick to two miles for now.” Kalashnikov is currently a top price 9/1 with sportingbet for the opening race of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival betting odds.

The other major performance by a novice at the weekend was that of Saint Calvados in Warwick’s Betway Kingmaker Novices’ Chase. Two impressive wins in novice chases at Newbury since joining trainer Harry Whittington from France marked the five-year-old down as a potential serious challenger to the likes of Footpad, Petit Mouchoir and Sceau Royal in the Arkle should Aidan Coleman’s mount maintain his unbeaten record in the Grade 2 contest.

Setting out to make all the 4-9 favourite hardly put a foot wrong, first seeing of chief market rival North Hill Harvey some way from home before passing the post 22 lengths ahead of nearest pursuer Diego Du Charmil. Available at 8-1 with Betvictor and Betfair Sportsbook for the Arkle, Saint Calvados could prove a tough nut to crack at the festival if handling the track and the likely faster conditions.

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