Kauto Star connections ponder Hennessy decision

OWNER Clive Smith and trainer Paul Nicholls are likely to discuss plans for Kauto Star later in the week following his triumphant return to action at Down Royal.

The dual Gold Cup hero put his bad fall in this year’s Cheltenham showpiece behind him when winning the JNwine.com Champion Chase for a second time on Saturday.

The joy was tempered, however, by jockey Ruby Walsh breaking his leg in a fall later in the afternoon which means a replacement will have to be found for Kauto Star when he bids for a record fifth successive victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.

Connections have also to decide whether to give Kauto Star another run before Christmas in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 27.

“We’ll see how he recovers from the race in the next four or five days and he’ll tell us,” said Smith.

“The King George is the absolute number one priority and maybe that’s where we will go next, but we’ll see. We don’t have to worry about making a decision on the Hennessy yet.

“It’s very sad what’s happened to Ruby. I think he’ll be out for quite a while, so it’s very difficult.

“I’ve not discussed it with Paul yet. I’ve got to go down later in the week and we’ll have a chat about everything.”

Smith reported Kauto Star to be in excellent shape following his four-length victory over last season’s Arkle Trophy winner Sizing Europe.

“Kauto is perfect. He’s back home. He’s been out of his box and he knows he’s had a run. He’s a remarkable horse,” he went on.

“It was an excellent run and we’re very pleased. I text a friend of mine after the race and said I was excited and relieved,” said Smith.

“He got a bit outpaced down the back, he was running against fast, fit two-mile type horses.

“He did very well and all turned out right in the end. It was very good for him.”

Paddy Power have opened betting on who will partner Kauto Star when he bids for a fifth King George win at Kempton, with champion jockey Tony McCoy the hot favourite.

“McCoy rode three times for owner Clive Smith when Ruby was injured two years ago, wining two including the Tingle Creek on Master Minded,” said Power.

“Paul Nicholls turned to him for Denman last season and so when you’ve got a horse chasing an historic fifth King George why wouldn’t you want to have the greatest jump jockey there’s ever been on your team?”

Who will ride Kauto Star in the King George. Paddy Power bet: 1-4 AP McCoy, 4-1 Barry Geraghty, 10-1 Any Other jockey, 12-1 Sam Thomas.

Meanwhile, Sizing Europe is set to stick to races over three miles following a fine effort in defeat at Down Royal.

The King George VI Chase and the Lexus Chase are the possible options over Christmas for last season’s Arkle Trophy winner after he finished second to Kauto Star.

“He seems in good form, he trotted out today, everything seems fine and we’re happy with him,” said trainer Henry de Bromhead.

“We were absolutely delighted. We thought he ran a blinder.

“He seemed to stay the three miles there by the looks of that. They went a good gallop and they really picked it up from a mile out.

“He stayed well for me and we’d be hoping for a little bit more improvement as well, so we’re very happy.

“I’m not sure where we will see him next. I’d say hopefully it will be Christmas in either the King George or the Lexus.

“We’ll see and I’ll discuss it with Alan (Potts, owner) and see how we go.”

Pandorama is still on course for the Hennessy Gold Cup after being none the worse for a nose bleed that prevented him from running at Down Royal.

Noel Meade’s classy performer was withdrawn at the start before the Ladbrokes.com Chase after the problem was spotted.

“It’s a bit of a mystery because when he got back to the enclosure he was perfect and he has been fine since,” said Meade. “I don’t know if it’s possible he hit himself in his box or on the truck coming up to the course or something like that.

“He was in great form. He scoped after he worked the other day and he was perfect, so I’m very hopeful it was just a bang or something like that.

“I’d say the Hennessy is definitely the plan. Whether he runs before I don’t think so, it will probably be a racecourse gallop.”

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