Kauto Star has been installed as the 5-6 favourite by Coral for Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock, a race he won last year en route to a million pound bonus.
The brilliant Paul Nicholls-trained chaser is one of 14 entries for the big race, the first leg of the Betfair Million, and will be ridden for the first time on a racecourse by Sam Thomas, who deputises for the injured Ruby Walsh.
“Kauto Star is the most popular horse in training bar none and he is certain to attract bets totalling over a million pounds on Saturday, despite his very short price”, said Coral spokesman Simon Clare.
My Way De Solzen is his main market rival at 3-1 with Exotic Dancer third-favourite at 11-2.
Speculation had risen about who would get the mount on Kauto Star, but the champion trainer has remained true to his word and stayed with his stable number two.
“I’ve booked Sam,” said Nicholls.
“I said as much on Sunday and there have been all sorts of things written, but it was just a question of confirming things with the owner Clive Smith and he said he was happy with Sam.”
Kauto Star lost for the first time in 18 months on his seasonal reappearance in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree when Monet’s Garden fought him off, but Nicholls warned at the time he would improve significantly for the run.
Nicholls has two other entries in the race in Taranis and Denman, but neither are very likely to run.
The former, recently seen landing the James Nicholson Chase at Down Royal, is set for the Betfair ’Fixed Brush’ Handicap Hurdle on the same card.
Nicholls continued: “I’m not quite sure what to do with Taranis at this stage. I will decide later in the week but he will probably run in the hurdle, as he is quite well handicapped.”
Joint-owner Harry Findlay said of Denman: “To be honest we haven’t even had a racecourse gallop into Denman because until Sunday we hadn’t had any rain at all, so I think a plan for Denman may be a racecourse gallop this weekend and the Hennessy the following weekend. I think it’s highly unlikely that he will run at Haydock.
“Heavy ground could change it though as it would rule a lot out but not us,” he said.