Last season's Betfair Hurdle winner and Skybet Supreme Novices' Hurdle runner-up Kalashnikov made a fine start to his chasing career with an eleven lengths success at Warwick. Amy Murphy's stable star jumped and raced with enthusiasm throughout and always looked in control. The four runner beginners chase was run at a decent tempo and runner-up Huntsman Son is a good yardstick (rated 135 over hurdles). Once shaken up after the second last, the Kalanisi gelding found plenty and bounded clear. His trainer indicated afterwards that Kalashnikov will have a relatively light campaign between now and Cheltenham in March. The most impressive aspect of his victory was his appetite for the job - he wanted to do it and attacked his fences. He has got all the attributes to go all the way over fences.
The best horse on show at Hexham was the Brian Ellison trained Windsor Avenue. A half-brother to stablemate Ravenhill Road and Gordon Elliott's Down Royal bumper winner Malone Road, he had finished second behind the potentially high-class Al Dancer over two miles on his hurdles debut at Carlisle last month. Stepped up in trip, he proved a class apart from his rivals to win hard held by four and a half lengths. While he is effective over shorter trips, it will be interesting to see if he is aimed at something like The French Furze Novices' Hurdle at Newcastle (1st December) over two miles six.
I am heading to Aintree tomorrow and with rain forecast this evening, I am expecting the ground to be on the soft side. There is some terrific jumping action on both sides of the Irish Sea over weekend. Looking further ahead, there could be a cracking beginners chase at Carlisle on Monday, while a host of promising youngsters are entered at the likes of Bangor and Exeter later in the week. Great stuff. Enjoy the weekend.
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