Middleham-based Ferdy Murphy, a trainer with a particularly good strike rate at the Cheltenham Festival, has expressed himself very happy with the way his Kalahari King is shaping up ahead of his bid to land the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on the third day of the four-day fixture, writes Elliot Slater.

Kalahari King, a 12-time winner, goes particularly well at Cheltenham in the spring and this will be his fourth successive visit to the Festival meeting having run with tremendous credit on each occasion. In 2008 the now 10-year-old finished a creditable fourth of 22 to Captain Cee Bee in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle before returning a year later to run arguably the race of his life in going under by only a short-head to Forpadydeplasterer in a memorable renewal of the Arkle Chase.

Last year the gelded son of Epsom Derby winner Kahyasi again ran well to be third behind Big Zeb in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, so there can be no doubting his Cheltenham Festival pedigree. The big question for 2011 is whether or not Murphy’s stable star will stay the extra distance of the Ryanair Chase having for so long been campaigned at or around the minimum trip? The Cheltenham race odds cast some doubt over his ability to do so.

Looking back at his hurdles career, the northern raider has wins at Musselburgh and Punchestown to his name over two-and-a-half miles, so there is more than a little hope that he might last home if the race is run to suit. Good ground would be ideal for Kalahari King who can act in the soft, but is able to use his turn of foot to better effect on top of the ground.

Expected to have a racecourse gallop at Doncaster at the weekend, Kalahari King is ante-post fourth favourite and generally on offer at 8/1 to win the Ryanair Chase, behind 9/2 favourite Poquelin, another course specialist.