All eyes on Arkle contender Kalashnikov at Plumpton

Kalashnikov is the star attraction at Plumpton on Monday

Kalashnikov takes the next step on the road to Cheltenham Festival when making his second appearance over fences at Plumpton on Monday.

Despite winning the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and being narrowly denied by Summerville Boy in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, Amy Murphy’s stable star always looked the type to do better over the larger obstacles.

The five-year-old made a near foot-perfect start to his chasing career at Warwick a little over three weeks ago and will be long odds-on to follow up when he faces five rivals in the Sky Sports Racing Novices’ Chase.

Murphy views this race as an ideal stepping-stone for Kalashnikov – particularly with Plumpton offering a £60,000 bonus to any horse who can win at the track and go on to success at the Festival in March.

“He’s absolutely fine – we’ve been delighted with him since Warwick,” said the Newmarket-based trainer.

“We hadn’t been able to get him on the grass prior to Warwick, so I’m sure he’s improved from that run and hopefully he’ll go and run a nice race.

“I wouldn’t want them to get too much more rain. I think there’s heavy places on the hurdle course, but not on the chase course.

“We can’t really complain about the rain after waiting for a month, though.”

Kalashnikov is a best-priced 6-1 second-favourite for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March, behind Kayley Woollacott’s 5-1 favourite Lalor.

His most interesting rival on his latest start is the four-year-old Envoye Special, who makes his debut for Paul Nicholls after some fine efforts in France and receives almost a stone in weight from Murphy’s charge.