There’s only one place to kick-off this week and that has to be our successful journey to Plumpton on Monday with Kalashnikov, who made it two from two over fences with a good, solid, assured round of jumping at the Sussex track.
Admittedly I was a little bit nervous as there’s a lot of focus and attention on this horse, though I was probably worse at Warwick last time.
That day, being first time out you just want it to go well but as soon as he’s done it once you’re a bit more relaxed, although don’t get me wrong you want him to go and have a nice round of jumping and show improvement from Warwick, and he certainly did that.
If you want to be ultra-picky you can say he made one error jumping when he left his back legs in the ditch momentarily, though Jack Quinlan was quick to blame himself for that, saying he saw a stride and there was a momentary miscommunication.
That said, Kalashnikov will learn from that and I’d much rather he got his mistakes in on a lesser day than coming down to the last in a Graded race.
I’m also glad to report he’s in fabulous order in the aftermath of the race; he clearly enjoyed himself on the day, travelled home well without moving a muscle and ate up everything on Monday night. Since then he’s been out in his paddock enjoying some winter sunshine, looking so well you’d barely know he’d been to the races.
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I see he’s 9/2* now with FansBet for the Arkle, which if he’s to live up to that type of billing means we’ll have to raise his sights next time out. The next week will be crucial – he needs to bounce out of Plumpton because he didn’t have much of a hard race – if he does then you may very well see him next up at Kempton Park in a significantly better race on December 27th, the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase.
I’m also looking forward to getting another sight of potential future opponents; I spoke in my blog a couple of weeks back about how impressive Lalor was over fences at Cheltenham – I see there’s talk of him coming back out at Sandown Park in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase this weekend – I certainly hope so as he was great to watch the last day.
On the subject of those trained elsewhere, you literally couldn’t fail to be impressed by the stunning display once again from Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on Saturday.
Despite the disappointment for Might Bite at Haydock Park the previous weekend Nicky Henderson has had his string in stunning form – something in the region of a 40% strike-rate the last couple of weeks – and in Buveur D’Air he’s got a monster!
Two Champion Hurdles, two Fighting Fifths, seven Grade 1’s, 11 wins on the bounce, plus he may very well still be improving! Saturday was meant to be a miniature Champion Hurdle but he toyed with seriously good opposition. Brilliant to watch, and off the back of that you can very well see why FansBet rate him only 10/11 to retain his Champion hurdle crown in March.
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More immediately, Mr Henderson also has the favourite for Saturday’s biggest prize, the famous speed test which is the two-mile Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park (3.00pm).
I’m know I’m very much not alone in saying that growing up this was always one of my favourite races to watch, with quality steeplechasers winging their way over the imposing railway fences on the far side of the track.
Horses like Moscow Flyer, Well Chief and Azertyuiop stand out from some great battles in this race, and market leader Altior is there courtesy of his incredible 14-race unbeaten streak, which contains the race we’d love to win in the shape of the Arkle, as well as the 2018 Queen Mother Champion Chase.
He’s also a perfect three from three at Sandown Park, but this is the hottest of red-hot renewals and if he is to be beaten by anything then maybe, just maybe it’ll be here…
In all likelihood he’ll do the business, but this is guaranteed to be an ultimate test, coming up against race-fit, last time out winners in Sceau Royal and Saint Calvados, plus the mighty Un De Sceaux.
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The last-named is a 10-year old now, but don’t forget he won this race two years ago, has the brilliance of Ruby Walsh in the saddle, plus is trained by a genius.
His trainer, Willie Mullins, had the options to keep him at home for either John Durkan or Hilly Way Chases this on Sunday, so it’s definitely interesting that he chooses to cross the Irish Sea.
For those reasons, if I was to have a pound on one, with maximum respect to all four great horses, it would be Un De Sceaux.
My blog is due another good winning selection, and the FansBet team have suggested Un De Sceaux is likely to line up something in the region of 9/2* – that would do nicely!
*all odds are subject to change
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