King Kauto rolls back years
Paul Nicholls described Kauto Star's victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock yesterday as his best day in racing after the veteran brought the house down on Merseyside.
Written off in some quarters, with Nicholls taking particular exception to those who had called for his retirement, the 11-year-old saw off last season's King George and Gold Cup winner Long Run in an absolute thriller. Despite running creditably when third in the Gold Cup in March, Kauto Star had been pulled up for the first time in his career subsequently at Punchestown.
Because of that, and the presence of Long Run, Kauto Star was sent off at 6/1 in a six-runner field, the biggest price he has ever been since his transfer to Nicholls way back in November 2004 -- before Long Run had even been born.
Employing positive tactics from the outset, Ruby Walsh was content to not let his challengers have it easy. Long Run's old Achilles heel returned on the final circuit and he put in a few sloppy jumps, giving himself plenty to do, with Kauto Star and the strong-travelling Diamond Harry looking to have it between them.
Long Run's stamina began to come into play and the 6/5 favourite got a second wind, briefly looking a threat. Unfortunately for his connections a spring-heeled Kauto Star sealed it with another fine leap at the last and he crossed the line eight lengths to the good.
As well as Kauto Star winning his 15th Grade One and fourth Betfair Chase, Nicholls and owner Clive Smith were also on the mark at Ascot where Master Minded teed himself up for a crack at the King George with a win in the Amlin 1965 Chase.
Paddy Power make Long Run their 6/4 favourite for Kempton Park on St Stephen's Day with Kauto Star a 4/1 chance and Master Minded 5/1.
One wag in the crowd could be forgiven for shouting "bring on Frankel" which made Nicholls laugh, and outside of Cheltenham it's hard to remember a horse receiving such a reception.
"That's the best day I've ever had. It's just amazing," said Nicholls. "He's great for racing, and I hope those that said he should have been retired will apologise. To beat a Gold Cup winner at his age is amazing."
At Ascot, Master Minded and Daryl Jacob enjoyed a three-length win over fellow 2/1 joint-favourite Somersby.
The £90,000 Coral Hurdle had a dramatic conclusion when a final-flight fall from favourite Oscar Whisky and Barry Geraghty allowed Overturn (5/2) and to come home at his leisure.
At home, Willie Mullins made it nine winners from his last 14 runners when his Raptor (6/4 fav) landed the Punchestown For Value Beginners Chase at Punchestown.
Sunday Indo Sport