If, as trainer Ferdy Murphy suggested, Kalahari King was not 100 per cent fit going into last Saturday's big handicap chase at Doncaster, then his rivals for next month's Queen Mother Champion Chase must be wondering if they can cope with this fast improving performer, writes Elliot Slater.
Carrying top weight of 11st 12lbs and returning after an absence of more than nine months, Kalahari King toyed with a field of smart handicappers before quickening away after the last to win very impressively under Graham Lee. Understandably the nine-year-old gelding received rave reviews and now looks a very serious rival for Master Minded and Twist Magic for the Champion Chase, a race that is building up to be an absolute cracker.
Proven around Cheltenham, having failed by the narrowest of margins to land last season's Arkle Trophy, the Middleham-trained chaser must be expected to improve again after his seasonal pipe-opener, a prospect that won't please his big race rivals. With Master Minded still to demonstrate that he has returned to his best after the rib injury that contributed to his defeat at the hands of Well Chief in the autumn, and Twist Magic having three times failed to figure in previous visits to Cheltenham, Kalahari King has plenty going for him and represents tremendous value at current odds of around 6/1. You won't hear many better Cheltenham betting tips between now and the start of the Festival.
However, the news is much worse for the winner of last year's Arkle, Forpadydeplasterer. The horse has reportedly gone lane reportedly gone lame and will be confined to his box for no less than three weeks, leaving no time to have him ready for the Festival fixture.
Trainer Tom Cooper now suggests that he will attempt to prepare his stable star for a tilt at the big two mile chase at the Punchestown Festival in April.
The Arkle Chase betting odds for the 2010 renewal of the race make Captain Cee Bee favourite at 7/2, followed by Sizing Europe at 6/1.