Sunday 26 January 2020

Nicholls: Star prospects getting better

PAUL Nicholls reports Kauto Star to have taken a "big step forward" after watching him work at Ditcheat.

The legendary steeplechaser fell when schooling at the trainer's base last week and while no serious injury was suffered, connections revealed he was only 50-50 to bid for a third Gold Cup. However, Nicholls expressed his satisfaction after seeing the 12-year-old enjoy a canter with fellow Gold Cup hope What A Friend.

"Kauto had his physio this morning and had an hour on the walker, and you could just tell that he had more of a buzz and a spring in his step, and that a bit of the old swagger had returned," Nicholls said.

Earlier, Nicholls admitted he faced "the biggest decision I've ever had to make" regarding the horse's participation in the race. No final decision will be made until next weekend. "It's getting better and better every day," he added.

Meanwhile, on the track, Nicholls and Ruby Walsh salvaged something from a tight finish in the Barbury International Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury, with Aerial getting past Dan Breen on the line to win by a short head.

The 100/30 favourite Aerial, which is not raced too often but has taken fourth in two big Cheltenham handicaps this term, wore down David Pipe's Dan Breen.

At Kelso, Grand National winner Ballabriggs posted a satisfactory effort as he made his seasonal bow in the Premier Chase, finishing fourth behind Tony McCoy and 6/4 favourite Master Of The Hall.

The win was some consolation for McCoy and trainer Nicky Henderson after favourite Captain Conan was turned over by Tap Night in the featured Kelso Hurdle.

At home, Lord Of Lords landed a spectacular gamble on his debut in the Athboy (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race at Navan to provide Helena Keaveney with her first winner with just her third runner. Backed from 25/1 yesterday into 11/2, the Steven Crawford-ridden winner slammed favourite Peking To Paris by 23 lengths.

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