Mick Fitzgerald is looking forward to teaming up with Kauto Star for the second time in tomorrow’s totepool Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.
The Irishman replaced the injured Ruby Walsh when partnering the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding to victory in the William Hill – Tingle Creek Trophy at Sandown in early December.
With Walsh sidelined again, Fitzgerald has the chance to continue his association on the six-year-old, who is favourite at around 2-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
“He’s a very good horse. I’ve ridden him once before and I’ve been down to school him. He felt fantastic and its fingers crossed,” said Fitzgerald.
Kauto Star faces five rivals in tomorrow’s Grade One contest won last year by his sidelined stable companion Azertyuiop, the 2004 Queen Mother hero.
Nicholls also runs Armaturk, who was third in this race 12 months ago, while Martin Pipe is doubly-represented with Locksmith and Tamarinbleu.
Locksmith was last of six finishers behind Kauto Star at Sandown and filled the same spot behind the Fitzgerald-partnered Tysou in last Saturday’s Victor Chandler Chase at the same track.
“He’s not really good enough to run in the race but his handicap mark doesn’t give us an opportunity of going anywhere else with him,” said owner David Johnson.
“There’s the chance to pick up some prize money. He was sixth at Sandown and I didn’t think he ran a bad race. That’s as good as he is.
“Until I can get him down into a handicap I’m going to be pushed to win with him.
“I can’t get him in a handicap so we take on the good horses but frankly he’s not good enough. It’s tough but we’ll do our best.”
The line-up is completed by the Mark Rimell-trained Oneway, who was fourth to Moscow Flyer in last season’s Champion Chase, and Palua from Emma Lavelle’s stable.