Smith reserves special praise for Nicholls’ Kauto fitness effort

Owner Clive Smith praised Paul Nicholls and his team for their efforts in getting Kauto Star back on track to bid for a third success in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday.

The 12-year-old confirmed his place in the blue riband event after delighting connections in an “awesome” schooling session at trainer Nicholls’ Ditcheat base.

Smith said: “We were very pleased with him this morning. He went very well, jumped the fences beautifully and it’s all systems go.

“We hope he’s right back to top form and we wouldn’t run him unless he was at his best, so we feel he’s all set for Friday.

“It’s all been due to a tremendous effort from the yard. Clifford Baker, as usual, has been absolutely brilliant with him as has the physio.

“Donna Blake and Rosie Loxton have been looking after him all the time and Paul Nicholls of course has been overseeing the whole operation and doing it very well.”

It was feared Kauto Star would not attempt to regain his Gold Cup crown for a second time when it emerged he had suffered a schooling fall last month.

Nicholls was concerned about his condition after the tumble but after making massive strides in his recovery, Kauto Star was back on top form when enjoying a racecourse gallop after racing at Wincanton on Friday.

Connections were keen to see how he fared in another schooling session before confirming his participation, but after pleasing Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star will try to add to his Cheltenham wins in 2007 and 2009.