Paul Nicholls believes he is “nearly there” in his battle to get Kauto Star fit for Friday’s Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The 12-year-old was described as “50-50” for the Festival showpiece last week after it emerged he had suffered a schooling fall at Nicholls’ Ditcheat yard.
Kauto Star has since made massive strides in his race to be fit for the blue riband and after delighting Nicholls in a gallop at Wincanton on Friday, the handler believes he is back on form.
“We’re very happy. It was just what we wanted. He went nicely and was full of enthusiasm,” he told Channel 4’s The Morning Line.
“He came back last night and was straight into his grub. He ate up this morning and there’s not a bother on him. We’re really, really pleased.
“He’s 100% sound this morning so we’re very happy.”
While dual Gold Cup victor Kauto Star appears to be back on track for the race, Nicholls will school him on Monday before committing to a run.
He said: “You don’t have to decide (whether to run) until the day before technically, but we’re going to school him on Monday morning.
“The signs are all good – he came out of that yesterday and he appears to be back to 100% normal now.”
Kauto Star looked very fresh and well before his racecourse spin and Nicholls admits his improvement over the last seven days has been startling.
“That (his freshness) was just what we wanted to see. He’d been like that before he’d had the fall and a week is a long time with horses,” Nicholls continued.
“The improvement from one Friday to the following was just absolutely unbelievable and we’ve still got a week to go. We’re very happy with him and he’s in great form now.”
Nicholls was also keen to pay tribute to the efforts of his team in caring for Kauto Star.
“There’s been a lot of work. Our vet Buffy (Shirley-Beavan), the physio who has treated him, Clifford (Baker, head lad) and all the team (who have) spent hours and hours on him.
“We had to do a few different things and we’re all just aiming to get him right and in good shape. We’re very nearly there.”
“You would be disappointed if he couldn’t get there. We’ve still got five or six days to go yet, but we’re more confident now.
“It would be fantastic if he could get there.
“We only want to run him not to make the numbers up, but to be competitive and have a big chance. What we saw yesterday will get him there.
“We’re very nearly there.”
David Pipe is also due to decide on Monday whether he will pitch unbeaten novice Grands Crus into the Gold Cup.
The seven-year-old has won each of his three starts this term, most recently when scoring an impressive victory in the Grade One Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
However, Grands Crus is also entered in the RSA Chase and Pipe will consult with owners Roger Stanley and Yvonne Reynolds before selecting a target.
“We will make a decision on Monday. We will see how Kauto is – obviously he looked in fantastic form yesterday at Wincanton,” said Pipe.
“It looks like he will be going for the Gold Cup which is great for racing, but maybe not so good for us.
“I shall speak with the owners over the weekend and decide on Monday.”