Kauto Star created history by becoming the first horse to win the William Hill King George VI Chase for the fourth year in succession at Kempton.
Paul Nicholls’ superstar came home in splendid isolation and Ruby Walsh never suffered an anxious moment throughout the whole three miles, officially winning by a distance from Madison Du Berlais.
Sent off the 8-13 favourite, Kauto Star bettered Desert Orchid’s record in the race, with the famous grey having won the Boxing Day spectacular four times but not consecutively.
Tom George’s gallant Nacarat set a ferocious early pace up front under Sam Thomas, along with old timer Ollie Magern.
The betting suggested Imperial Commander was the main threat to Kauto Star, but a terrible blunder at the second fence put paid to his chance and he struggled to get competitive after that.
Walsh loomed up alongside Nacarat with fully half a mile to run and the rest of his rivals were dropping away quickly – Deep Purple and Racing Demon having long since been pulled up.
Madison Du Berlais battled gamely to take second a mile back with Barbers Shop third, and in truth there was only ever one horse in it.
Walsh said: “For any horse to come back for the same race four years on the trot is some ask, but to win it is incredible.
“Paul and Clifford (Baker, head lad) have done a smashing job at home with him and to do it four years on the bounce is amazing, it is an absolute privilege (to ride him).
“I’d say that was the best King George I’ve ridden in as regards pace, they went a really good gallop and I couldn’t believe the way he jumped the fourth-last.
“I was still on the bridle when I got to Nacarat, and Barbers Shop was the only other horse still in view.
“It reminded me of the King George that Kicking King won the gallop they went.
“Paul was right – he said he’d never had him better and that performance shows it. He’s an amazing horse.”
Nicholls added: “He is amazing. I’d said it before, but I think that was the best he’s ever been.
“He was awesome. I knew he was at his best, you can’t believe how much he has improved – his whole well-being and everything. I’ve said it all before and I wasn’t saying it for no reason, he’s never looked better than he did today.
“He’s got it all now, he’s got pace, he jumps, he stays and he is just a wonderful, wonderful horse teamed up with a brilliant jockey as well, they suit each other.
“Hopefully he is good for racing, that’s what we want.”
He went on: “Denman put his name in the hat the other day with an awesome performance (in the Hennessy) and Kauto has gone and done the same.
“Denman has got another run to come, of course, but it is going to make things interesting come March.”
Totesport make Kauto Star their 5-4 favourite from 2-1 for a third Cheltenham Gold Cup with stablemate Denman at 2-1 and 12-1 bar the front two.
William Hill make him 6-4 to win a fifth King George in 2010.
David Pipe said of the runner-up: “We thought if we could make the frame today we’d be happy but Kauto Star is one in a million, a very, very good horse.
“He has run a great race again and we have picked up some very nice prize money. We’ll just have to see where we go from here.”
Nicky Henderson said of Barbers Shop: “I thought he ran a great race, it’s a pity he couldn’t have finished second as he deserved it.
“We’ve been debating it all and we have to say now that at this level he needs to drop back in trip and go for the Ryanair.”
George said of fourth home Nacarat: “I was very proud of the horse to see him upsides a horse like Kauto Star turning in – Kauto Star was the only one to go with him!
“The jockey did say he couldn’t get a breather into him but it was a really good run.
“In an ideal world, the Aon Chase would be back here as it was in February. He doesn’t want an undulating track, so he won’t be going to Cheltenham, and we will have to look at the Bowl at Aintree again.”