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