Kalashnikov – 6-1 William Hill ( money back if does not run at festival ) 1.30 Cheltenham Tuesday 13th March
A look at the latest Cheltenham betting for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the opening race at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, would suggest that the Willie Mullins-trained Getabird, the clear 6-4 market leader with most bookmakers, must be the clear form horse in the extended two mile contest. The short odds available about the son of Getaway however are probably more to do with his trainer who has taken the festival opener on five occasions, rather than what the six-year-old has achieved in two starts over the smaller obstacles.
With an official rating of 152 the promising gelding has an obvious chance of making it win number six in the race for the master of Closutton but the value surely lies with the 154-rated second favourite Kalashnikov who would be much shorter than the 6-1 currently available if trained by a Mullins, Henderson or Nicholls. The Kalanisi gelding is in the care of Amy Murphy who, despite only holding a licence since August 2016, has plenty of experience having worked with the likes of Gai Waterhouse in Australia and the legend that is Luca Cumani.
Murphy may have little experience of the Cheltenham Festival as a trainer but in Kalashnikov’s impressive victory in Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle on just his fourth start over hurdles the 25-year-old proved that she is well capable of getting one ready for the big occasion. Taking on a field of 23 mainly experienced handicappers the lightly-raced mount of Jack Quinlan ran out an easy winner on ground considered soft enough for the five-year-old. With decent conditions likely for the festival it is possible the gelding could produce an even better performance at Prestbury Park.
Getabird proved far too good for the Gordon Elliott-trained Mengli Khan in a Grade 2 at Punchestown in January but the nine length runner-up was conceding the winner 6lb on that occasion and is capable of getting closer to the favourite on better ground at level weights. Summerville Boy managed to beat Kalashnikov in Sandown’s Tolworth Hurdle but that race was run on desperate ground and it would be a big surprise should Tom George’s runner confirm the form in two weeks time.