Kauto Stone out as 15 remain in King George frame

KAUTO STONE and Wishfull Thinking were among half a dozen defectors from the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Stephen’s Day.

Fifteen now remain in the Christmas feature, with the sponsors quoting the reigning champion Long Run as the 6-4 favourite.

Nicky Henderson’s gelding is joined by the likes of Paul Nicholls’ four-time winner Kauto Star and his stablemate Master Minded.

Nicholls is likely to give Kauto Stone more time to recover after his second-placed finish in last weekend’s Tingle Creek, while Wishfull Thinking is under a cloud after he weakened dramatically to finish a distant fifth.

His trainer Philip Hobbs still has the smart Captain Chris in the field while the others to drop out were Midnight Chase, Quinz, Roberto Goldback and Wayward Prince.

Noland is poised to join an already formidable Paul Nicholls challenge for the King George VI Chase after the champion trainer confirmed The Nightingale would be his only runner in tomorrow’s Betfred Peterborough Chase.

Noland, a Grade One winner over fences and hurdles, seems to run well when fresh but has been off the track since beating stablemate What A Friend in the Aon Chase in February.

The Nightingale and Noland have both won the valuable Grade Three chase over two and a half miles at Down Royal and the former, who was pulled up in the last King George, returned to Northern Ireland for his comeback and was third behind Quito De La Roque in the JNwine.com Champion Chase.

Nicholls, who already has Master Minded and Kauto Star in the mix for the King George, said: “The Nightingale runs on Thursday, although I have no idea who is going to ride him yet.

It looks as though fellow Peterborough entries Golan Way and Medermit will also be defecting.

The former produced a thrilling front-running performance to take the Future Stars Chase at Sandown last week, but trainer Sheena West said: “Golan Way won’t run, we’ll save him for the King George.”

Alan King’s Medermit may instead take up his entry in Saturday’s Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Meanwhile, Charles Byrnes will be bringing exciting novices Fists Of Fury and Sea Of Thunder over to Cheltenham this weekend.

Wetherby beginners’ chase victor Fists Of Fury could take on Mossley, Join Together and Champion Court in the Ryman The Stationer Novices’ Chase over an extended three miles and a furlong on Saturday.

Stable companion Sea Of Thunder, who finished second in an extended two-mile novices’ hurdle on the same Wetherby card on November 23, may also line up at Cheltenham on Saturday in the three-mile Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.

Byrnes said: “Fists Of Fury won well at Wetherby although I am not sure what sort of race it was in terms of the opposition. He will appreciate the better ground and will get the trip well.

“It looks like a very hot novice chase and he probably has a small bit to find on one or two of the others but I think that he will run a decent enough race.

“Sea Of Thunder probably has a good bit to find but I think that he should stay the three miles. We have also entered him in at Hereford the following day and we might keep him for that if the Cheltenham race looks too strong for him.”

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