Victories in the Betfair Chase and the King George this season have seen Kauto Star priced at 4/1 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and trainer Paul Nicholls believes that it is effectively a coin toss as to who will win between him and Long Run.
After chasing home Long Run consistently last season, it was widely considered that this was merely because of his ageing years and that the torch was simply being passed to the new kid on the block.
However, this foresight has been proved emphatically wrong in the current campaign and based on form, Kauto Star is the currently the horse to beat heading into the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It is hard to put a finger on the reason for this sudden resurrection in form, but trainer Paul Nicholls feels it could have something to do with the retirement of stablemate Denman, who regularly piled on the pressure at Cheltenham.
Nicholls stated in his Racing UK podcast: “Not having Denman in the race will help in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as he would harry and pressurise him at the top of the hill.
“The quicker they go the better early on, but then it’s just a case of getting a breather in, and Kauto never had that chance with Denman up his backside.”
Long Run still heads the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting at 2/1 and the course is expected to play more to his strengths than Haydock and Kempton.
This is largely because he has arguably been finishing the stronger in his two previous defeats and Kauto Star could come unstuck on this occasion as he has to keep toiling up the Cheltenham hill.
Furthermore, Kauto Star has virtually been foot perfect in each of his victories and his jumping will be far more greatly tested at Cheltenham.