ARKLE favourite Kalashnikov is set to face his toughest test yet when he takes on Maria’s Benefit in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase next week.
Both rivals are looking to make it three out of three over fences in the Grade 2 contest.
Stuart Edmunds’ mare, who notched up five wins over hurdles last term before finishing a valiant fourth at the Cheltenham Festival, is Kalashnikov’s first worthy adversary over the larger obstacles.
With commanding victories at Newton Abbot and Bangor she has looked the real deal over fences so far this season, and her trainer believes she has the ability to give the favourite a shock in the Christmas contest.
He said: “The ground at the moment is good to soft and if it stays like that it would be lovely.
“We’ve got to take them all on at some point and I think on a flat track it is probably the best place to take him (Kalashnikov) on.
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“She was very good at Bangor, but she was probably coming to the end of her tether and dossing in front.
“I spoke to Robbie Dunne (Jester Jet’s jockey) and he said she wasn’t at the races that day and just ran a bit flat.
“She had an easy week after Bangor and is now back in maximum work, I couldn’t be happier with her.
“She’s had two or three schools and I’ve not felt the need to go for an away day, she’s in great form and I’m very happy with her heading to Kempton.”