Tag Archives: clifford

Kempton"s conditions are heavy for Boxing Day meeting

Christmas deluge turns Kempton heavy with inspections expected elsewhere

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Kempton goes ahead without an inspection despite being hit with more rain on Christmas Day that changed the going to heavy.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said eight millimetres of rain fell at the track on Tuesday morning but the course had taken it well.

Clifford added: ‘No inspection is needed. You could still arguably find a few soft patches among the heavy but that is splitting hairs.

Meeting greeting: Kempton's conditions have turned heavy (stock image)

Meeting greeting: Kempton's conditions have turned heavy (stock image)

‘There is a band of showers moving in after midnight but then it should be dry with a sunny day before the next rain front moves in late in the afternoon.’

The prospect of a bright forecast is the Christmas present Kempton has been praying for ahead of its biggest crowd of the year.

But two other courses, Fontwell (8am) and Wetherby (8.30am) face inspections ahead of their most lucrative meetings.

All the remaining jump cards take place on heavy going. Huntingdon was already off and Thursday's Welsh National card at Chepstow has also been abandoned.

The meeting was to have been the BBC’s last racing broadcast before Channel 4 takes up exclusive rights to the sport. The card has been moved to January 5. Leicester inspect at 11am today for Friday’s fixture.

Kauto Star leaves Paul Nicholls" stables to begin new career in dressage

Nicholls saddened after Kauto Star leaves his stables to begin new career in dressage

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UPDATED:

18:47 GMT, 11 December 2012

Paul Nicholls admitted his 'sadness' after Kauto Star's time at his Ditcheat yard came to an abrupt end on Tuesday.

The winner of five King Georges and two Cheltenham Gold Cups had been officially retired in late October and was expected to remain at Manor Farm Stables in Somerset until Boxing Day, when he was due to parade at Kempton.

Owner Clive Smith had announced on Monday that the 12-year-old would be moving away to be prepared by European bronze medalist eventing rider Laura Collett and long-time Great Britain manager and coach Yogi Breisner for a new career in the world of dressage – a decision not popular with Nicholls and his staff.

Leap of faith: Kauto Star has left Nicholls' stables for the final time

Leap of faith: Kauto Star has left Nicholls' stables for the final time

The winner of 19 races for the champion trainer, including four Betfair Chases and two Tingle Creeks, Kauto Star had been with Nicholls for eight years and was invariably ridden by his head lad Clifford Baker.

'It is with great sadness that I have to report that Kauto Star has left the yard for the last time,' Nicholls told his Betfair column.

'It has been no secret that Kauto's future has been a great source of debate since we announced his retirement.

'And, to be brutally honest, this morning I felt the time had finally come for me to take control of the situation, and to start making the decisions.

'Now, I am fully aware that Kauto is Clive's horse and he can do as he wishes, even though I would personally have loved Clifford to have looked after him for the rest of his years.

'But what upset me and my team here is
when Clive announced that he had spoken to experts about the horse's
future – but failed to consult and listen properly to the team that had
looked after him here for the past nine years. That really upset us.'

Crowd favourite: Kauto Star is set to begin a new life in dressage

Crowd favourite: Kauto Star is set to begin a new life in dressage

Nicholls went on: 'So we had a team meeting here this morning. And after listening to everybody involved – there were about six of us in the meeting – I rang up Clive, said I don't want to fall out, but we think it is in the best interests of everybody concerned to take Kauto to Yogi Breisner's this afternoon so that he could start his new career in the dressage field as soon as possible.

'Which we did with the saddest of hearts. But I like to think with a lot of dignity, too. And, yes, there were plenty of tears too. He was a member of the family here at Ditcheat, and we will all miss him so much.

'I would just to like say that it was a privilege for us here at Ditcheat to train the horse. Good luck, old boy. You were the best – and deserve the best.'

Collett, 22, who is an aspiring Olympian based at the Membury Estate in Wiltshire, will be helped by Breisner to assess the gelding's suitability for the discipline in the coming weeks.

She tweeted: 'I feel very privileged and extremely honoured to have been asked to ride Kauto Star. I will be working closely with Yogi to give Kauto Star the best chance of a second career in dressage.'

Members of the Ditcheat team expressed their sadness at the horse's departure, with Nicholls' travelling head girl Donna Blake, tweeting:

'Farewell to our dear Kauto Star, sad day that he is leaving those who genuinely care and respect him. Undeserved.'

Smith is currently abroad, but at a lunch to promote the William Hill King George VI Chase in London on Monday, he had said: 'A lot of very good chasers have gone on to do very well at dressage, like Garrison Savannah and Neptune Collonges and I wanted him to have an interest – he's just too good to be a hack or to be out in a field.

'I wanted him to do something else and he's going to be down at the other side of Lambourn and Laura Collett and Yogi will be working with him. We'll know in a very short time (if it is a possible option).'

Jack Wilshere plays 90 minutes of Arsenal friendly

Wilshere boost for Arsenal as midfielder plays 90 minutes of Chelsea friendly

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UPDATED:

15:37 GMT, 17 October 2012

Jack Wilshere played 90 minutes for the first time since his return to action as he closes in on an Arsenal comeback.

The midfielder has been sidelined for 17 months with knee, ankle and foot problems but took part in a friendly defeat to Chelsea on Wednesday afternoon.

Getting a run: Jack Wilshere played 90 minutes for Arsenal in a friendly defeat to Chelsea

Getting a run: Jack Wilshere played 90 minutes for Arsenal in a friendly defeat to Chelsea

Wilshere had already featured for the Under 21s, playing 63 minutes against West Brom at the start of October and getting a 74-minute run against Reading.

He is due to play another game for the youngsters against Everton next week with the Capital One clash against Reading pencilled in for his return for Arsene Wenger's side.

Defender Bacary Sagna also played 90 minutes as he battles his way back to the first team while midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong got another game under his belt following his recent return in the League Cup.

Target: Midfielder Wilshere could be back in the Arsenal first team by the end of October

Target: Midfielder Wilshere could be back in the Arsenal first team by the end of October

But it was all about the progress of Wilshere for the north Londoners and he will have pleased manager Wenger with his performance, getting stuck in from the start and looking lively just behind the striker.

The 20-year-old England international almost scored in the second half, forcing Blues keeper Jamal Blackman into a save after surging into the box.

Chelsea, with John Terry in their ranks for the opening 45 minutes, won 2-0 thanks to goals from Billy Clifford and Islam Feruz.

Cautious: Arsene Wenger will be relishing the chance to name Wilshere in his starting XI once again

Cautious: Arsene Wenger will be relishing the chance to name Wilshere in his starting XI once again

Robbie Keane injury fears played down by Republic of Ireland

Irish play down Keane achilles injury fears after skipper sits out training

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UPDATED:

12:49 GMT, 10 October 2012

Injury doubt: Robbie Keane

Injury doubt: Robbie Keane

Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane sat out training on Wednesday morning as he nursed an achilles injury.

However, assistant manager Marco Tardelli later insisted he is not a doubt for Friday night's World Cup qualifier against Germany.

The LA Galaxy frontman picked up the knock in a training ground collision with defender Paul McShane, but is expected to be fit for the Group C encounter at the Aviva Stadium in which manager Giovanni Trapattoni has hinted he will play as a lone striker.

Midfielder Keith Andrews sat out the latter part of the session, but Tardelli confirmed he does not have an injury, while keeper Keiren Westwood, who was missing yesterday, was back on the training pitch.

Chelsea midfielder Conor Clifford, who was drafted into the squad last night, worked with his team-mates for the first time as Trapattoni drilled his players ahead of a difficult game.

Kauto Star could have a shot at a sixth King George VI Chase

Kauto must show that he still has Star quality: Smith ponders shot at sixth King George

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UPDATED:

20:03 GMT, 2 September 2012

A final shot at winning a remarkable sixth King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day remains an option for Kauto Star after owner Clive Smith deferred retiring his iconic steeplechaser.

The dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, winner of 23 of his 41 races, looked likely to have run for the last time when pulled up in the Festival feature in March.

But Smith, speaking at the annual owners’ day of trainer Paul Nicholls, said: ‘If he could retire at Kempton, that would be the place to do it. It is not my biggest aim to have a race but, if he shows form, he could go for the King George again.’

Twelve-year-old Kauto Star returned to the Nicholls’ stable last week.

Six and out: Will Kauto Star be lining up at Kempton on Boxing Day

Six and out: Will Kauto Star be lining up at Kempton on Boxing Day

Smith added: ‘The idea is to see where we are in a month to six weeks. Clifford Baker (Nicholls’ head lad) rides him every day — if anybody is going to know it is him.’

Nicholls added: ‘We will give him a month’s work and then Clive and I will have a chat. There is only one possible race he can run in and that is the King George. He would not be ready for the Betfair Chase (at Haydock on November 24).’

Smith drew comparison with the situation 12 months ago when Kauto Star returned from a listless display when pulled up at Punchestown in May to defy calls for retirement with emotional wins in both the Betfair Chase and King George.

But he insisted he wanted to avoid a situation like the one suffered by great Desert Orchid, who fell heavily on his last run when he competed in the 1991 King George as a 12-year-old.

That external pressure could now intensify ahead of Smith making a final decision with a racehorse who rates as public property.

Importantly, well-being on the gallops is not the only factor when weighing up the risks to rewards ratio of an extra run.

Meanwhile, Nicholls concedes hanging on to his champion trainers’ title with the likes of Denman, Master Minded and Grand National winner Neptune Collonges already retired will be tough.

Four-time World Hurdle winner Big Buck’s heads his team with emerging talent Sanctuaire, who’ll reappear in the Tingle Creek Chase.

JP McManus has joined his owner ranks for the first time with the purchase of Hereford bumper winner Mr Mole.

Mario Balotelli linked to Wayne Rooney"s alleged prostitute

Balotelli admits fling with prostitute linked to Rooney before 2010 World Cup

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UPDATED:

14:23 GMT, 4 April 2012

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has had a 'brief involvement' with a woman previously linked to Wayne Rooney while his wife was pregnant.

Balotelli’s involvement with Jennifer Thompson occurred during a time when women were 'targeting' the player to earn money by selling their stories, Mino Raiola, who represents the Italian, said.

Max Clifford, who is representing Miss Thompson, said his client has been pursued by tabloid newspapers following the 'alleged friendship'.

Brief involvement: Mario Balotelli has admitted a fling with Jennifer Thompson

Brief involvement: Mario Balotelli has admitted a fling with Jennifer Thompson

Miss Thompson was working as an escort when she and another call girl were linked with Rooney before England’s World Cup campaign in 2010.

Mr Raiola said in a statement: 'Mario is a young and impulsive football player and as such he is an easy target for tabloids looking for stories and people seeking to benefit from being associated with him.

'Lately I feel that the chase has become more purposeful and women, in particular, are targeting Mario looking to make money from him directly or by selling stories to newspapers that relate to situations which they have intentionally pursued.

'It now seems that one of these women has succeeded and the newspapers have their story.

Coming out: Balotelli trained today having arrived with girlfriend Rafaella Fico

Coming out: Balotelli trained today having arrived with girlfriend Rafaella Fico

'In this regard, we therefore wish to
confirm that Mario has had a brief involvement with Miss Jennifer
Thompson, a well-known figure amongst tabloid readers in England.

'Mario
prefers to admit what has happened, has refused any means on offer to
try to keep the matter silent and will deal with any consequences his
actions bring in the way of public attention.

Limelight: Jennifer Thompson achieved notoriety when she was linked to Wayne Rooney

Limelight: Jennifer Thompson achieved notoriety when she was linked to Wayne Rooney

Limelight: Jenny Thompson achieved notoriety when linked to Wayne Rooney

'However, he prefers to deal with his
personal life in private and had told those close to him about this
situation prior to any suggestion of this matter becoming public.'

The
agent added that the 21-year-old was 'becoming aware of the modern
practices operated by some newspapers' and was determined to avoid
'certain types of people'.

Mr Clifford said Miss Thompson approached his PR firm and discussions over the sale of her story were ongoing.

Not again: Balotelli already caused controversy during Manchester City's weekend draw with Sunderland when he clashed over the taking of a free-kick

Not again: Balotelli already caused controversy during Manchester City's weekend draw with Sunderland when he clashed over the taking of a free-kick

'She has been pursued by the tabloids over an alleged friendship with Balotelli and asked us to represent her. We represented her some time ago when she was linked to Wayne Rooney.'

Miss Thompson was working as an escort when she and another call girl were linked with Rooney before England's World Cup campaign in 2010.

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2012: Kauto Star raring to go, Paul Nicholls

Kauto is raring to go and ready to Star in the Gold Cup

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 15 March 2012

A couple of weekends ago my gut feeling was that Kauto Star would not make it to the Gold Cup.

When my head lad Clifford Baker told me that he thought Kauto was only ‘50-50’ to get a run after a fall left the horse bruised and stiff, my heart sank.

Over the next few days I simply wasn’t getting the right signals from him.
But ever since then he has done nothing but improve and his gallop at Wincanton last Friday and jumping session on Monday have put a spring back in his step.

Raring to go: Kauto Star

Raring to go: Kauto Star

I’m now hopeful but not confident because any setback, however small, so close to the race has to be a big negative and I suspect we’ll meet a peak-form defending champion in Long Run.

That is not defeatist talk. We have the form horse of this season – Kauto is arguably in the form of his life after his Betfair Chase and King George wins – and he is the best horse in many of our lifetimes. If he could win a third Gold Cup, and regain it for the second time, then it would be my proudest achievement as a trainer.

I can tell you he did a great piece of work with my Triumph Hurdle hope Pearl Swan on Thursday.

I also run Sir Alex Ferguson’s What A Friend – third behind Long Run last time out in the Denman Chase at Newbury – in the Gold Cup. He was fourth last year and it wouldn’t surprise me if he reached the places again.

Paul Nicholls discusses all of his runners on Friday, free to view, on: www.betfair.com/paulnicholls

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2012: Kauto Star is the Muhammad Ali of racing

Special K! Kauto can show he is the Ali of racing with Star comeback

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UPDATED:

13:56 GMT, 13 March 2012

Kauto Star will try to win a third Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday after confirming his complete return to fitness in a jumping session at Paul Nicholls’ Somerset stable under jockey Ruby Walsh.

Nicholls described the session as ‘awesome’. The dual Gold Cup winner was only ‘50-50’ to make it to his sixth Gold Cup and seventh Festival just over a fortnight ago after a fall left him bruised and stiff. However, the horse was given the green light on Monday lunchtime.

Cheltenham 2012 is all about record-breakers. Quevega in Tuesday’s David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle and Big Buck’s in Thursday’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle attempt to win their races for a fourth successive year, while trainer Nicky Henderson needs two wins to surpass the record set by the great Fulke Walwyn of 40 at the Festival.

The Kauto Star Team: Left to right, Sarah West, Sonja Cook, Lina Chadburn, Dan Skelton, Clive Smith, Paul Nicholls, Kauto Star, Ruby Walsh, Clifford Baker, Tom Jonason, Rose Loxton, Dan Hubbard and Donna Blake.

The Kauto Star Team: Left to right, Sarah West, Sonja Cook, Lina Chadburn, Dan Skelton, Clive Smith, Paul Nicholls, Kauto Star, Ruby Walsh, Clifford Baker, Tom Jonason, Rose Loxton, Dan Hubbard and Donna Blake.

THE TEAM BEHIND THE NATION'S FAVOURITE JUMPER

SARAH WEST (PA to trainer) Role: Administrator responsible for race entries and answering fan mail.
SONJA COOK (Groom) Role: Kauto Star’s original groom when he arrived from France in 2004 and led him in the parade ring when he won his first Gold Cup in 2007.
LINA CHADBURN (Financial controller) Role: Purchaser of all products required by Kauto Star, including his favourite mints.
DAN SKELTON (Assistant trainer) Role: Planning and overseeing Kauto Star’s work routine.
CLIVE SMITH (Owner) Paid 400,000 for Kauto Star, who races in his blue, green and yellow silks, in 2004.
PAUL NICHOLLS (Trainer) Six-time champion trainer who has steered Kauto Star’s career over the past nine years.
KAUTO STAR: The most famous horse currently racing.
RUBY WALSH (Jockey) The most successful jockey in Cheltenham Festival history with 32 wins. Has been on board for 17 of Kauto’s 23 wins.
CLIFFORD BAKER (Head lad) Role: Rides Kauto Star almost every day he is in training and has special responsibility for his feeding.
TOM JONASON (Pupil assistant trainer) Role: Supervises Kauto Star’s training routine.
ROSE LOXTON (Head Girl) Role: Acts as his current groom and looks after Kauto’s daily routine. Will lead him in the paddock before Friday’s race.
DAN HUBBARD (Farrier) Role: Responsible for shoeing Kauto Star and looking after his hooves.
DONNA BLAKE (Travelling head girl) Role: Steps in to ride Kauto Star on gallops when Clifford Baker is absent. Drives the horsebox to all his races.

But confirmation that Kauto Star will
take his place means the steeplechaser who has done most to re-write
jump racing history will top the bill.

The record five-time King George VI
Chase winner, probably running at his last Festival, is bidding to
become the first 12-year-old to win the Gold Cup since What A Myth in
1969.

With wins in 2007 and 2009, he is
already the only horse to win back the crown. He could become the first
horse to win it back twice, after falling and finishing third
respectively in the last two years.

That would be a Muhammad Ali-style
achievement from a gelding who has earned the right to be called one of
the greats. The greatest ever Who knows That’s a call as impossible as
comparing Lionel Messi with Pele. But Kauto Star has become part of the
Festival furniture with a profile reaching far beyond normal boundaries
of the sport.

Special K: Nicholls and Walsh celebrate Gold Cup glory in 2009

Special K: Nicholls and Walsh celebrate Gold Cup glory in 2009

The key Kauto facts:

Age: 12. Height: 16.3 hands. Races: 40. Wins: 23. Grade One wins: 16. Prizemoney: 2,375,883. Owner: Clive Smith. Cost: 400,000 (335,000). Festival record: 6 runs (2 wins; 1 second, 1 third, 2 falls). Festival prizemoney: 667,322.

The clamour for injury updates since
his accident has mirrored the attention Wayne Rooney would attract if a
strained hamstring threatened to rule him out of the European
Championship.

That’s because Kauto Star now ranks
alongside the legendary Irish three-time Gold Cup hero Arkle, flamboyant
grey Desert Orchid and triple Grand National hero Red Rum in the
public’s affections.

This season’s two defeats of the
younger rival Long Run, the defending champion trained by Henderson and
ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen, have suggested that Kauto Star’s heart beats
as vibrantly as ever.

But Cheltenham has taught us to expect
the unexpected. Remember 2010. That was supposed to be ‘The Decider’
with the Gold Cup score standing at one-all with his now retired
stablemate Denman.

But it was Imperial Commander that
claimed the crown as Kauto Star suffered a bone-crunching fall four
fences from home that Nicholls feels adversely affected last season’s
performances.

Rivals on Friday include Burton Port,
Midnight Chase, Synchronised and Sir Alex Ferguson’s 2011 fourth-place
What A Friend, but not David Pipe-trained up-and-coming novice Grands
Crus, who will now run in Wednesday’s RSA Chase.

They will all have their supporters
but Nicholls believes his horse is in the right shape to take them on.
He said: ‘None of us can truly tell how he will run but we were right
twice this season and I am hopeful we are again.’

The Olympics come to London in July
but first it is jump racing’s Olympics in the Cotswolds. It could reach a
climax with another gold-medal winning performance from the great Kauto
Star.

Paul Nicholls facing anxious wait with Kauto Star

Nicholls facing anxious wait to see if Kauto Star can run in Gold Cup

Paul Nicholls faces a second week of sleepless nights before he knows if his great chaser, Kauto Star, can meet his date with destiny at Cheltenham.

We can expect daily bulletins from Ditcheat as the nation's favourite racehorse continues his recovery from the chilling moment his world turned upside down during a routine schooling session.

The stress experienced by the champion trainer was all too evident as we watched Kauto Star step out of his box early on Friday morning.

Getting there: Kauto Star has a good chance of recovering fully for Cheltenham

Getting there: Kauto Star has a good chance of recovering fully for Cheltenham

'It's so frustrating because he has
been absolutely flying all season until that fall. In the form he was
in, we had to be hopeful of another huge run in the Gold Cup,' said
Nicholls.

'To look at him you wouldn't think
there is anything wrong with him. He is not lame and is cantering away
every day. But his regular rider, my head lad Clifford Baker, says he is
just not quite right at the moment and I have to listen to him.

'Kauto is feeling something. It's not
that serious, we think we know what it is and we are treating it, but
unless Clifford believes he is back to where he was before the fall he
won't be there on March 16. We haven't given up on getting him there and
we'll make a decision on Saturday.

'We have been incredibly lucky at
the Festival over the years. I have to say this is the hardest run-up to
that meeting I've known, with Denman and Master Minded now retired
through injury, others having setbacks, then some coughing in the yard
and now Kauto hurting himself.

'The worst thing is that I realise this is
the last realistic chance he will have of running in the Gold Cup.'

Nicholls concedes that the
consequences of Kauto Star's heavy tumble with Ruby Walsh during a
routine schooling session nine days ago could have been infinitely worse
for horse and rider.

'Kauto was full of himself, jumping
brilliantly,' said Nicholls. 'I remember asking Ruby to pop over an open
ditch once more and that would do.

Dream team: Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star

Dream team: Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star

'I was at the take-off and he
literally launched himself at the fence from too far away, something he
did a time or two in his early races. He made an error of judgment,
panicked in mid-air and turned over.

'I knew straight away it wasn't
good. It looked like he might have hurt himself quite badly. When he got
to his feet I think he might have been a bit concussed. In my heart of
hearts I felt he would be very lucky to escape unscathed. We brought him
back to the yard and when we trotted him up and down he was sound. I
felt a bit better after that, but I've hardly slept a wink since.

'If he doesn't get to the Gold Cup
I'll feel dreadful on the big day, really empty. I'm not even sure I'd
be able to watch the race.'

Optimistic: Paul Nicholls says the signs are good for Kauto Star

Optimistic: Paul Nicholls says the signs are good for Kauto Star

Nicholls is unwilling to call time on
a career that has taken Kauto Star to an astonishing 16 Grade One
victories including two Gold Cups.

'All we are interested in is trying to get him to Cheltenham,' he said.

'There is still time, but if he has to miss the Gold Cup we will give him a long summer's break.

'There is no way we are thinking of retiring him given the form he has been in all season.

'Although he's 12, he behaves as if
he is much younger. We'll assess him in the autumn, just as we did last
year, and if we are happy with him in every way we could possibly look
at the Betfair Chase or another King George.

'What he did for racing in coming
back to win both those in tremendous style was brilliant after I was
getting stick at the end of last season for not retiring him. Now it is
the other way, with everyone wanting him to run at Cheltenham.

'What people have to realise is that
these horses are a long time retired standing out in some field. If you
asked Kauto what he would rather be doing, I know what his answer would
be because he loves every minute of what he does.'

Kauto Star has "great chance" of making Cheltenham

Star could shine at Cheltenham as Nicholls confirms Kauto still has chance of making Festival

Trainer Paul Nicholls insists Kauto Star still has a great chance of running in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 16.

The legendary 12-year-old gelding, twice a winner of the Gold Cup, was on Thursday reported as 50-50 for the highlight of the Cheltenham Festival after suffering a bad fall when schooling under Ruby Walsh last Friday.

Although his participation remains in the balance, Nicholls remains hopeful the Clive Smith-owned chaser can confirm his well-being within the next fortnight.

Hopeful: Kauto Star could recover in time for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Hopeful: Kauto Star could recover in time for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

He told Sky Sports News on Friday morning: 'This morning he's having physio. He's going to canter as normal today and we're hoping we can get him there, but there's just a chance we might not.

'He's just a little stiff. You get a little older and take a little knock and it just takes a little bit to get over it.

'If you trotted him out today and paraded him you'd not think there was anything wrong. But the the situation with him is that he needs to be at his very best to run.

'It's getting better each day so we're still hopeful – we've still got a fortnight.

'The big day will be a week Saturday when he does his last strong piece of work before the Gold Cup. He needs to thrill Clifford (Baker, Nicholls' head lad). We've still got a great chance.'

Kauto Star is still second favourite for the Gold Cup behind last year's winner Long Run after beating the reigning champion twice this season.

Fingers crossed: Trainer Paul Nicholls with his star performer Kauto Star

Fingers crossed: Trainer Paul Nicholls with his star performer Kauto Star

Despite issuing an upbeat bulletin, Nicholls said he will not take any risks with one of the finest National Hunt horses to have ever graced the turf.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: 'He's never fallen in his life schooling, but he just made an error and fell.

'He's getting older now, and he's just taken a while to get over it. We're still hopeful we can get him there in top form.

'A lot can change in a fortnight, but we're going to do our very, very best to get everything right for him.

'If he goes the right way and gives us the right signs, then we can go (to Cheltenham) – but we're not going to take any risks.

'If he's not in top form then he won't run. Up until the incident he had been in amazing form – he looks great – and we were very confident we'd go there with a big chance.

'We'll keep everyone informed over the next fortnight as to where we are and what we are thinking.

'Whatever's best for Kauto is in the forefront of our minds.'