Kauto Star will face a maximum of 13 rivals as he bids to record a remarkable fourth consecutive victory in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Paul Nicholls’ dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero made a winning return to action in last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock and regular pilot Ruby Walsh can hardly wait for Boxing Day to arrive.
“I would say Kauto Star is as good if not better than last year,” said the jockey.
“Kempton’s been a very lucky track to me over the last couple of years and Kauto has been outstanding there. It’s a race I really look forward to and I can’t wait for it to come around.
“I’m looking forward to riding him and if he could win four King George’s he will go down in history.”
Walsh admits Imperial Commander has to be rated a big danger after being beaten just a nose by Kauto Star at Haydock.
“I suppose he is a threat. If you take the form literally he has to be,” Walsh told www.sportinglife.com.
“That said, Imperial Commander seems to be a better horse going in the opposite direction, but he ran a cracking race in the Betfair Chase and he has to have a good chance.
“It’s pretty hard for me to tell how well Kauto is at home but Paul sees him every morning so he’s a better judge of that than me, and he thinks he’s improved considerably so I’ll take his word for it.”
Imperial Commander is one of three entries for Nigel Twiston-Davies with the Naunton handler also having left in Ollie Magern and Roll Along.
Albertas Run could represent Jonjo O’Neill, while Nicky Henderson’s Barbers Shop is an interesting contender running in the colours of the Queen.
Peterborough Chase winner Deep Purple looks set to line up for Evan Williams, Tom George has left in Nacarat and Tartak, while Master Medic could be runner for Robert and Sally Alner.
Racing Demon, Sandymac and the David Pipe-trained pair of Madison Du Berlais and Our Vic complete the possibles.
Six horses were taken out at the latest entry stage including the Dessie Hughes-trained duo of In Compliance and Schindlers Hunt, as well as Lexus-bound pair What A Friend and Cooldine.