It’s very nearly a year and some seven outings since the smart Kalahari King last tasted success, but Ferdy Murphy’s talented performer showed definite signs of a return to form with a solid, if luckless display in the Grade 1 Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on January 22, writes Elliot Slater.
Sent off an unconsidered 25/1 chance in the race that produced such a tremendous finish between Master Minded and Somersby, Kalahari King was some way off the pace but still going OK when the loose Petit Robin cut across his path and very nearly carried Murphy’s charge and jockey Graham Lee off the course altogether. Lee believes that incident might have cost him as many as 40 lengths, so in the circumstances he did well to re-gather the horse and find him staying-on nicely over the final two fences to come home fourth, beaten 22 lengths.
Last in the winners’ enclosure when landing the Blue Square Handicap Chase at Doncaster in February 2010, Kalahari King went on to run very well to be third to Big Zeb in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival but, until last weekend, hadn’t appeared to be firing on all cylinders since then.
Having seen the 10-year-old Kahyasi gelding stay-on so well up the Ascot hill, Murphy is now more convinced than ever that his winner of 12 races and over £370,000 in prize money is now ready to step up in trip, and as such it looks more than likely that the Ryanair Chase will be his ultimate target at the Cheltenham Festival 2011 in mid-March, in preference to the Champion Chase.
Kalahari King’s Ascot run didn’t escape the attention of the bookies either, a number cutting him to just 12/1 for the two-mile-five-furlong Grade 1 event, although Totesport seem less impressed than most and still go 20/1.