12 March 2018

Kalashnikov (IRE) aims to follow in the footsteps of relation Kicking King (IRE) in achieving Cheltenham Festival glory this week, and is currently second favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. We spoke to Michael Hickey, whose Sunnyhill Stud bred Amy Murphy’s stable star.



You must be looking forward to the Cheltenham Festival even more so than usual, with Kalashnikov (IRE) a leading fancy in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. How do you fancy his chances?


He must have every chance; he’s a very good horse who’s improving all the time. My only concern would be that he’s coming off a hard race on very soft ground. I also worry that the sticky ground won’t be to his liking, but we have to be optimistic in this game.


You must be delighted by the way he’s progressed up to now?


To win four races from five starts, and for his latest victory to come in Britain’s richest handicap hurdle, especially in the manner that he did, is fantastic. The fact that his sole defeat was a second in a Grade 1 to another progressive type, adds to it. Amy has done a fantastic job with the horse.


It’s a family you know very well, having also bred the dam- a full-sister to Sunnyhill stars Kicking King (IRE) and Four Commanders (IRE). What characteristics do the family share?


I bought the third dam, Fairy Tree (IRE), from Brownstown Stud at Goffs. She had a very good page, and was an impressive type; with a short canon bone and slightly forward of her knee.


With winners over jumps and on the flat, she produced the second dam, Fairy Blaze (IRE). The daughter of Good Thyne didn’t race but was a revelation as a broodmare. She was an exceptional mover, despite her large size, and she passed that on to her stock.


Unfortunately, we lost the dam of Kalashnikov (IRE) last year, when she was foaling her tenth foal. We kept five of her daughters- the other two sold to Joseph O’Brien and Amy Murphy, the latter being dual Listed winner Kalane (IRE). When I told the same story to a friend recently, they said, “I bet you’re not cursing the fillies now!”


The dam of Kalashnikov (IRE) was a daughter of your late stallion Old Vic. You must be delighted with his success as a broodmare sire, from the likes of Annie Power (IRE) and Melodic Rendezvous (IRE), to top-class flat performer Schiaparelli.


He was a great sire and a fantastic broodmare sire. He had a wonderful pedigree and was a brilliant racehorse. When I bought him, the flat breeders told me he would make a fantastic broodmare sire.


The first national hunt crop of current Sunnyhill resident Doyen (IRE) are now making waves, with shrewd judge Gordon Elliott paying top dollar for the likes of Rapid Escape (IRE) and Battleoverdoyen (IRE). How would you describe his stock?


They are big horses, but it’s been encouraging to see his stock be precocious enough to run at four and what’s more, win at four. I think that, given time, they will make talented chasers. He is a son of Sadler’s Wells and they have a habit of making very successful national hunt stallions.


German Derby winner Lucky Speed (IRE) is your newest recruit and his first crop are now yearlings. How do they strike you?


We were delighted with his first foals. Eight of his colts were offered at the sales and they all sold. They looked the part and moved very well, plus they were bought by shrewd judges. 

A very tough racehorse himself, he’s a grandson of Lomitas and out of a Monsun mare, from a top-class French family under the third dam.


You’ll also be cheering home another Sunnyhill Stud-bred next week in Springtown Lake (IRE). What do you think of his chances?


He has two entries in handicap hurdles at the Festival- in the Coral Cup on Wednesday and the Martin Pipe on Friday. Given that he finished second in a Grade 2 to On The Blind Side (IRE) in December and followed up with a third in a Listed race at Cheltenham next time out, you’d have to fancy his chances.


He, too, is out of an Old Vic mare, and comes from the family of our very first broodmare. A daughter of Fortino II, she was called Fortuity and her daughter, Forty One (IRE), was by Over The River, who my father stood down in County Wexford.


Will you be at Cheltenham next week?


I would love to be there, especially if they win, but not everything is possible in life. 

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