Five-star Kauto! Walsh guides veteran home to record King George VI win
Kauto Star became the first horse in history to land the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton five times with a quite brilliant performance under Ruby Walsh.
Just as he had been when landing Haydock”s Betfair Chase last month, the Paul Nicholls-trained 3-1 chance was once again ridden positively for this three-mile test.
The 11-year-old was in front with a circuit to go and as he quickened the pace heading down the back straight, he produced some sensational leaps to get his rivals in trouble.
Top of the world: Ruby Walsh celebrates victory on Kauto Star
Edged out: Long Run just couldn”t catch Kauto Star
Last season”s King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Long Run stayed on tenaciously in the home straight, but Kauto Star was not for catching and had a length and a quarter in hand at the line.
The incredible French-bred gelding had all but been written off at the start of the season, having been left chasing Long Run”s shadow in the King George and the Gold Cup before pulling up at Punchestown in May.
Withhis career on the line, the veteran produced a superb performance at Haydock in November to consign Long Run to the runner-up spot, but the general feeling was that Nicky Henderson”s stayer would make the bigger step forward at Kempton.
However,Kauto Star travelled strongly throughout and it was clear from the turnfor home that Long Run was failing to match his impressive speed and jumping.
Storming to glory: Ruby Walsh takes Kauto Star over the last fence
Delight: Walsh beams after his victory at Kempton
While the latter did bridge the gap from Haydock, Kauto Star was always in complete command and was once again too strong.
William Hill cut Kauto Star to 9-2 from 10-1 to claim a third Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Long Run eased to 3-1 from 5-2.
Nicholls said: “He”s just awesome and I knew we had him in serious order. I don”t know why he wasn”t quite right last year.
“It was a massive plus having Ruby (Walsh) here today and it”s just unbelievable. It”s amazing. He”s just the best. If he gets to Cheltenham in that form he”ll be the one to beat (in the Gold Cup).”
Party time: Walsh and Kauto Star with Clive Smith and Paul NIcholls
Rivals: Fans show their support for Long Run at Kempton
Walsh added: “He”s an amazing horse. I said to Clive Smith I don”t know how he”ll run, but he looked a million dollars and he felt great. He jumped super and travelled great.
“This is a fairytale. He”s a wonderful horse and it”s a credit to the people who work with him every day. He”s beaten a six-year-old (Long Run) and he”s 12 next week. To keep a horse going as long as that is amazing.
“You can say what you want about the best steeplechasers of all time, but he”s outlasted them all. He”s lasted longer than any other horse and that”s what makes him so brilliant. This horse is as tough as nails and he”s exceptional.”
Owner Smith said: “I knew this was the biggest day of my racing life – 24 years or so. It”s unbelievable and I”m so proud. He”s such a magnificent animal.
“He”s got such a heart. He wants to go on. He”s a lion. I”m so pleased, I can”t tell you how excited I am. I”m shaking.”