Trainer Paul Nicholls has defended Kauto Star ahead of his King George Stakes challenge at Kempton, insisting the dual Gold Cup winner is “far from finished” as Paddy Power announce a free bets offer on the big race from Kempton.
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Nicholls will lead his charge in the race at Kempton hoping for a 5th win in the famous race.
Media speculation prompting suspicions Kauto Star may retire after an uncharacteristic inconsistent run have been proved unfounded after the 11-year-old swept to victory in the BetFair chase at Haydock.
Kauto Star will take on Long Run, jockeyed by Sam Whaley-Cohen in the prestigious race, and Nicholls insists he is up for the challenge despite looking like a spent force this year.
“If I wasn’t happy with him, we wouldn’t have thought about it,” said Nicholls ahead of Kauto’s run on Boxing Day.
“He’s in such a good place with himself at the moment, it’s an obvious race to run him in.”
Long Run was defeated at Haydock by Kauto Star, adding extra spice to the highly anticipated event, as does the presence of fellow challenger Master Minded.
Both Master Minded and Kauto Star are trained by Nicholls and owned by Clive Smith, who admitted he was somewhat concerned about running the two stable-mates together, adding that he is unable to pick a winner between the two.
“We always probably thought down at the yard that it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to run against each other. It sort of spoils the mystique about who would win,” Smith said.
“We were always aiming Master Minded at the King George since he won the Melling Chase at Aintree in April.
“Kauto Star’s stunning performance at Haydock made us realise it was a good idea for him too and I certainly thought he ought to have a go at winning the King George for a fifth time if he came back all right out of the race.
“The only thing we have to worry about with Kauto is how much that race took out of him but there’s every indication he’s feeling fine. He looks good, has got a good temperament and is feeling fresh.
“If he was wrong tomorrow morning we would retire him. You never know when that is going to happen – so it seems wise that, while he is looking good, we might as well give him a run.”