Kauto Star well on course to fight for third Cheltenham Gold Cup
Cheltenham Festival week is upon us and it looks increasingly likely that the biggest name on the VIP list, two-time Gold Cup winner Kauto Star, will be in attendance to challenge for a third title at 4/1 after all.
Just over a week after trainer Paul Nicholls deemed it necessary to publicise that his 12-year-old star suffered a fall in training and rated his chances of competing in the showpiece at 50-50, those figures have improved drastically.
Nicholls was adamant that he would only allow his iconic horse to participate if signs of a full recovery were evident and the noises emerging from Ditcheat have been progressively more positive since the initial revelation.
Last Friday saw the most encouraging indicator yet as Kauto Star took to turf at Wincanton under the guidance of Ruby Walsh for a public practice performance and galloped for two miles without any visible difficulty.
Nicholls has since come out and rated his prospects of running on Friday at 95%, though a decision won’t be made until a final schooling session on Monday has been negotiated.
Many expect this to prove Kauto Star’s final race of a stunning career which has featured 20 victories, the majority achieved at the highest level, including two in the Gold Cup, five in the King George VI Chase and four in the Betfair Chase.
The veteran has triumphed on its last two outings having previously been written off as finished and has beat reigning Gold Cup champion Long Run in both of those, however the latter is a 6/4 favourite to retain.
Punters may be swayed by events two years ago, when the build-up was dominated by talk of the two frontrunners – Denman and Kauto Star – only for Imperial Commander to swoop in and win – and anticipate a similar conclusion.
This year’s third favourite is Grands Crus at 11/2, followed by Burton Port at 7/1 and Midnight Chase, Synchronised and Quel Esprit at 10/1.