Kalashnikov set to fire

Steve Hughes looks ahead to the opening day of Newbury’s premier jumps fixture

An excellent Friday card to kick off proceedings at Newbury this weekend. The two open handicaps on the card offer some good betting opportunities. Fitzhenry was second for the each-way bet in the Troytown at the weekend (14/1).

Newbury 1.50: Kalashnikov

There were plenty of graded race options for Kalashnikov, but trainer Amy Murphy keeps him in handicap company here and as the class act he should be the one to beat.

His greatest day on course came here when winning the Betfair Hurdle in 2018, showing his prowess in a big field handicap in the process. He enjoyed a very decent first season over fences, at least when going left-handed.

That culminated in a Grade 1 win at Aintree at the National meeting over this 2m4f trip. He lost nothing in defeat over the same course and distance in the Old Roan Chase last month, where the loss of half the fences definitely played against him and in favour of winner Forest Bihan. Off the same mark of 155 today, he can defy his burden of top weight en route to bigger prizes.

Newbury 3.35: Dolphin Square & Dr Des

Newbury’s finale looks wide open so I will be taking two against the field.

Owner/jockey David Maxwell has been getting plenty of winners from his expensive string of horses and Dolphin Square can make a successful transition into handicap company here. The 5yo has won three from five over hurdles and looks a thorough stayer on the evidence of his most recent win at Wincanton. He looked in trouble some way from home only to keep on galloping and catch Kiltealy Briggs on the line. An extra 3f on a more stiff track will surely see him to better effect again. A rating of 131 may seriously under estimate his true ability.

At much bigger odds Dr Des looks worth an each-way punt. Trainer Henry Oliver is beginning to hit form now as the season reaches its core. Therefore it might be worth looking beyond Dr Des’ two moderate efforts so far this season as he hits peak fitness. As a novice he was quite high class over hurdles, giving Claimintakinforgan a real race in a Grade 2 at Ascot. He did not progress over fences last season but has dropped a stone in the handicap since his novice year. A real stayer he is unexposed at 3m and won’t mind the soft ground at all.

Recommended bets:

1pt win – Kalashnikov – 1.50 Newbury – 3/1 William Hill, BetVictor

1pt win – Dolphin Square – 3.35 Newbury – 9/2 general

0.5pts each-way – Dr Des – 3.35 Newbury – 22/1 Skybet (1/5 odds 1st 6)

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