Video: Confirmation of 'awesome' Kauto Star's Gold Cup entry sets up classic
The announcement the racing world had been eagerly expecting came yesterday in a bulletin that set the scene for one of the most anticipated Cheltenham Festivals in memory -- the amazing Kauto Star will run in Friday's Gold Cup.
Trainer Paul Nicholls' confirmation was the signal to celebrate a return clash between champion Long Run and jump racing's old warrior Kauto Star, which is reportedly fit and ready to take his chance in the Gold Cup for the sixth consecutive year, and to appear at the Festival for the seventh season on the trot.
"Clive Smith (owner) and I have given Kauto Star the green light after a very good schooling session on the grass this morning. Ruby (Walsh) came over to ride, and Kauto was awesome, just as I expected him to be," Nicholls said.
"He jumped six fences, the plain fence and the open ditch three times each, and he was foot perfect. He looks magnificent."
A rare training blip, in which the gelding fell in a routine schooling session on his home gallops at Ditcheat more than two weeks ago, meant Kauto Star had been under the spotlight more than he had ever been prior to the most important four-day fixture in the racing calendar.
His reputation and status had already taken on an added dimension when he registered a fifth win in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park and, with the recent training blunder, the world and his wife have demanded regular updates on his progress.
Even a racecourse gallop at Wincanton last Friday sparked wide interest, as well as attracting a sizeable crowd, who stayed after racing in the gathering gloom to witness the exercise.
If Kauto Star wins on Friday, the grandstands will erupt in admiration for a genuine jumping great, one deserving of a place alongside Arkle, Golden Miller and Desert Orchid. But first, this handsome 12-year-old has to conquer a list of younger rivals headed by Long Run.
One he will not have to worry about is the David Pipe-trained Grands Crus, whose connections have decided he is best kept to novice ranks for the time being. The exciting grey chaser is set to run now in tomorrow's RSA Chase.
Memories haunt even the most professional in this sport, though there is no evidence to suggest the dreadful experience endured by Pipe's father, Martin, when Gloria Victis, also a brilliant novice, was fatally injured in the Gold Cup, had any bearing on the decision.
David Pipe said: "You have to do what is right for the horse and, in our opinion, at this stage of his career, the RSA Chase is the right race for him. I'm sure he could cope with the Gold Cup, but hopefully we might be going there next year."
As Festivals go, this has been among the most intriguing in attempting to sort out winners, mainly because of the fact that many key horses held multiple entries. But with the first set of declarations published, it is almost as if punters have finally been unleashed to have a fair crack at what they see in front of them.
Three of the Festival week's universally recognised six 'good things' line up today, starting with Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle Trophy, progressing to Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle and culminating with Quevega in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle.
If all three triumph, it will put bookmakers on the back foot for the remainder of the week -- and on what has been observed so far this season, I cannot oppose any.
But, if for any reason, they get beaten, there are Sizing Europe in tomorrow's Queen Mother Champion Chase, Grands Crus in the RSA as well as Big Buck's in Thursday's Ladbrokes World Hurdle, still to come.
While the biggest roar will almost certainly be kept for the Gold Cup, it may be matched as the field set off for today's opener, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Irish horses had a fantastic time at this meeting 12 months ago when they had a record 13 successes from the 27 races over the four days. (© Daily Telegraph, London)