London – Amy Murphy’s bold decision to take aim at the Betfair Hurdle with Kalashnikov can paid rich dividends at Newbury in the UK on Saturday.
The Newmarket handler pitches her star novice into one of the most competitive handicap events of the campaign on the back of a fair effort when second in the Tolworth last time out.
Kalashnikov just failed to really fire on the heavy ground that day, but he stuck on well and it also later transpired he had lost a shoe during the race.
That defeat ended his three-race unbeaten run and, while he has only limited experience so far, this race has thrown up more than one novice winner in the past and he could have any amount of improvement still to come.
All eyes will be on Altior in the Betfair Exchange Chase as he makes his seasonal bow but, following his well-publicised breathing issue earlier in the year, he has questions to answer and Politologue looks well placed to exploit any weakness.
Paul Nicholls’ charge is technically rated 2.5kg inferior to Altior but he has been improving at a rate of knots this season, with his Tingle Creek Chase victory a particularly taking effort.
Obviously if Altior is at his very best there should be no stopping him, but if he is not, Politologue can take full advantage.
Cloudy Dream failed to stay at Aintree last time but is worth another shot in the Betfair Denman Chase.
Tried over 4900m in the Many Clouds Chase back in December, Cloudy Dream found the combination of heavy ground and strong stayer – and subsequent Cotswold Chase victor – Definitly Red just too tough an ask.
Cloudy Dream drops back to 4700m here and while he has a bit to find with Native River, he has the edge of race fitness and can give Ruth Jefferson a first Graded win after she took over her late father Malcolm’s yard at the start of the month.
Saint Calvados can put his age allowance to good use in the Betway Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick.
The five-year-old has made quite a splash in two starts so far for Harry Whittington, winning on his British bow in December at Newbury before following up with a 10-length demolition job back at that track the following month.
A typically neat French jumper, Saint Calvados is clearly a horse on the upgrade.
Count Otto has seemingly improved immeasurably for a gelding operation and he can keep up the good work in the 32Red.com Handicap at Lingfield.
A winner on his first start back in November, Count Otto then found a couple too good at Kempton in December but bounced back from that disappointing effort with another win last month.
He won an open-looking event that day in fine style, staying on best of all to win by half a length with the second and fifth subsequently boosting the form with their own victories in the interim.
Count Otto has been raised 2kg for that win but a mark of 90 still looks very attractive for Amanda Perrett’s charge.
Chevallier can make it a course and distance double in the Play For Free At sunbets.co.uk/Vegas Handicap.
Archie Watson’s runner was a narrow victor last time, edging it by a short head in what was a tight heat run at a sound gallop.
A 1.5kg rise obviously makes this tougher, but he has shown he is perfectly capable from this sort of perch in the past.
Atletico hit the crossbar at Newcastle recently and can gain compensation in the Betway Handicap at Wolverhampton.
He found Caspian Prince a head too good at Gosforth Park but that was an excellent run as Atletico was 3.5kg worse off with the winner in that conditions heat.
A return to handicap level here should see him back on the winning trail for Roger Varian. – Press Association
Suggested bets (UK starting times):
LINGFIELD: 1.10 Wicker, 1.45 Wide Acclaim, 2.20 Grandfather Tom, 2.55 Chevallier, 3.30 Native Fighter, 4.05 Count Otto, 4.35 Pour La Victoire.
NAAS: 1.35 Allardyce, 2.10 Wishmoor, 2.45 Epicuris, 3.20 Schindlers Ark, 3.35 Asthuria, 4.25 Back Bar, 4.55 Feelin’ Groovy.
NEWBURY: 1.15 Whatswrongwithyou, 1.50 Bastien, 2.25 Cloudy Dream, 3.00 Politologue, 3.35 KALASHNIKOV (NAP), 4.10 Reigning Supreme, 4.40 Pym.
UTTOXETER: 1.20 Tanacando, 1.55 Fort Jefferson, 2.30 Kilcullen Flem, 3.05 Final Choice, 3.40 Ocean Cove, 4.15 Hope’s Wishes, 4.45 Jaunty Thor.
WARWICK: 1.30 Rio Quinto, 2.05 Woolstone One, 2.40 Saint Calvados, 3.15 Value At Risk, 3.50 Triopas, 4.20 Fountains Windfall, 4.50 Not Never.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 5.45 Sheer Intensity, 6.15 Spare Parts, 6.45 Mother Of Dragons, 7.15 River Glades, 7.45 Atletico, 8.15 Frown, 8.45 Ravenhoe.
DOUBLE: Kalashnikov and Saint Calvados.