Brilliant Kauto can Star again and claim an amazing fifth King George triumph
Sportsmail”s PETER SCUDAMORE looks at the key issues surrounding Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase and explains why he thinks Kauto Star can win the race for a record fifth time.
Does Long Run still deserve to be hot favourite after his defeat at the hands of Kauto Star in last month’s Betfair Chase
Long Run deserves to be favourite but only just. He is taking on one of the best chasers of all time in Kauto Star, who made fools of those who had written him off going into last month’s Betfair Chase.
He might be in the twilight of his career but he pulverised Long Run at Haydock. The faith that trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh have
in being able to push on in a race with Kauto Star, confident he will last home, means they can exert pressure and pressure alters outcomes.
Kauto Star at his best is probably better than Long Run. The question is just how close he remains to his peak. Haydock suggested he was not far off.
Long Run’s amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen is extremely competent, but he’s no Ruby Walsh. It’s another point in Kauto’s favour. Long Run proved his talent last season but the great champions keep doing that.
Beating an elite yardstick in Kauto Star in the King George for a second season would be a massive boost to a reputation still in construction.
What a star: Kauto Star wins his third King George at Kempton in 2008
Is this contest a two-horse race — Kauto Star versus Long Run
The big two stand out on their best form but Master Minded and Somersby are both good enough to take advantage of any small dips in performance.
Somersby looked big and capable of plenty of improvement when second in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon earlier this month. That race had not been part of the original plan and trainer Henrietta Knight likes to bring her horses on gradually.
This is his first try at three miles and it’s a trip he looks to have been crying out for. Kempton also suits him. It’s impossible to say whether former champion two-mile chaser Master Minded will stay the distance – no-one
thought Desert Orchid would before he landed his first King George in 1986. But he’s not a tearaway and I think there’s a good chance he will last home.
Does Long Run’s jumping still concern you
It’s definitely an unresolved issue. I was disappointed with the lack of rhythm when he made costly mistakes at Haydock. He was brave to be off
the bridle for so long and keep galloping.
Trainer Nicky Henderson and his team have worked tirelessly on Long Run’s jumping. Being sharper physically and mentally will help but Long Run supporters will want to see their choice travelling well early and settling in a metronomic tempo. Walsh will be determined not to let him do so.
Victory: Long Run claimed victory in January”s King George
What chance does Master Minded have of staying the three-mile distance on his first race at the trip
After Haydock, Ruby Walsh will surely be keen to turn the power on aboard Kauto Star. That should mean a strong pace which many would
envisage being a negative given question marks over Master Minded’s stamina. But, for me, that makes the job of his jockey Daryl Jacob easier.
The presence of a higher-profile stablemate has eased the pressure on him. His mount can sit at the back, relax and switch off. Jacob wants them to go too fast and hope they wilt in front.
Given a free choice, what would you ride
Tough call, but Kauto Star’s performance in winning his fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock last month swings me in his favour. I’d stick with the
old champion and try to make history with a fifth King George triumph.
Verdict : 1 Kauto Star, 2 Long Run, 3 Somersby