A very fresh and seemingly well Kauto Star "is almost certain" to run in the Gold Cup after pleasing connections with a racecourse gallop at Wincanton yesterday.
The dual Gold Cup winner had suffered "an awful fall" a fortnight ago, according to trainer Paul Nicholls, but he now looks back on course to compete in his sixth consecutive Gold Cup as he searches for a third win.
Kauto Star worked with stable companion Mon Parrain and the pair finished upsides in what looked a pleasing gallop.
Visually, Kauto Star looked in top form beforehand, proving difficult to lead around and, during the piece of work, the 12-year-old was always running keenly in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Nicholls said afterwards: "That's just what I wanted to see, he's looking good and full of enthusiasm. Ruby could hardly hold him and he had to get Daryl to back off him because he was running so free."
The exercise was run at a steady enough pace, but the pair quickened slightly for the last four furlongs, leaving all connections pleased with just a week to go for what is billed as a mouth-watering rematch with Long Run.
"We didn't want to do too much with him and Ruby couldn't pull him up," added Nicholls. "You've seen him before and after, he looks fantastic and he's actually looking how he was before he had that little fall.
"Before the fall, we were thinking he was looking amazing like he was before Haydock and Kempton and I'd say he's back there now."
Walsh was happy to see the horse in good order and said: "He's fresh and he's moving well and he's good old spirits. The Gold Cup is next Friday, you can't do a whole pile; you don't want to leave whatever chance you have in Wincanton."
The leading Cheltenham Festival rider added: "We did enough, we can't do too much. Is he flying? I don't know. Will he win? I don't know. But he's in great form, he's moving well and he's healthy."
Nicholls revealed Kauto would do one canter today and tomorrow before an important schooling session on Monday morning.
The trained continued: "We needed to do something a little bit different because of the circumstances we were in and that's done him the world of good and we don't need to do a lot with him now."