Kauto Star 'so well' he may make early return
Kauto Star could be ready to make his reappearance by start of NovemberPICTURE: Edward Whitaker
THE 2006 Gold Cup winner was due to reappear in the Betfair Chase at Haydock three weeks later, but trainer PaulNicholls reported on Saturday that the eight-year-old is "so well" he will be ready to run by the start of November.
He said: "In contrast to Denman, I don't think I've ever been happier with Kauto at this early stage of the season. He's absolutely blooming, so he'll be one of possibly four entries I'll be making for Down Royal.
"I had Neptune Collonges earmarked as a possible but, like last season, he's taking a little while to come to himself and is normally at his best later in the season, so I'll need to discuss things with his owner, John Hales.
"We could also enter Turko and Gungadu, but I've spoken to Clive Smith and suggested we should look at taking Kauto to Ireland now I've ruled out the Charlie Hall Chase the same day. Wetherby remains an option for Neptune and Gungadu.
"Down Royal would fit in perfectly as a stepping-stone to Haydock, but I must stress it's no more than a possibility at this stage."
Kauto Star has never been out of the first two in 16 completed outings over fences, and his presence in Northern Ireland would be a huge treat for racing fans north of the border. He has raced exclusively in Britain since his arrival from France in the summer of 2004.
Smith confirmed that talks with Nicholls have taken place, and said he is "open-minded" about the idea of Kauto Star having a race before the Betfair Chase.
He added: "More than anything, I want Kauto to be 100 per cent on Gold Cup day, and the importance of having a fit and healthy horse has been brought home to me this week with the unfortunate news about Denman.
"I hope he makes a quick recovery because I want to see both horses take each other on again at Cheltenham next March. Although Kauto was beaten fair and square by Denman last season, most people I speak to reckon Kauto ran a few pounds below his best, so I've said to Paul the big thing this season is to get him to Cheltenham in the form of his life to try to gain his revenge.
"I always wanted the Gold Cup to be Kauto's fourth race this season, and if we went Down Royal, Haydock, King George and Ascot Chase, that would mean the Gold Cup was his fifth run.
"Paul has said we could easily miss out the Ascot Chase and go straight from the King George to the Gold Cup, so, as you can see, discussions are ongoing."
Smith, whohas spent the last month on crutches, is due to have an operation on Monday on a broken bone in his foot, but he added: "I'll be at Haydock for the Betfair Chase come what may."