Kauto Star is only “50-50” to make the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup after a fall when schooling last week, according to trainer Paul Nicholls.
Nicholls said the dual Gold Cup winner took a nasty tumble at his Ditcheat yard under Ruby Walsh.
Speaking in his Betfair blog, Nicholls said: “There is no easy way to say this, but Kauto Star is only 50-50 to make the Cheltenham Gold Cup after a fall schooling.”
“I am sad to report that his participation at the Cheltenham Festival is in doubt.
“Kauto took a tumble when Ruby schooled him at the end of last week. I say tumble, but in truth it was a pretty awful fall.
“Clive [Smith, owner] was obviously consulted at all times and we immediately got Kauto checked over. Even though he trotted sound, it was plain to see that he was sore afterwards.
“He has had the best veterinary and physiotherapy care possible but we hoped that he would be showing more improvement by now.
“I spoke to Clifford (Baker, head lad) after returning to the stables after a Cheltenham media day yesterday, and he said Kauto still wasn’t fully recovered, remained quite stiff, and in his wise words he felt he was ’only 50-50’ to make the Festival at this stage.
“So I immediately spoke to Clive and we felt that it prudent that we put out this update today.
“Next week is crucial for the horse.
“He is still cantering each day but I can assure you right now that Kauto Star won’t be going anywhere near Cheltenham unless we are all convinced – Clive Smith, myself, Clifford and the team here – that he is 110 per cent right.
“Even if there is the slightest doubt in our minds, then he stays at home. No question. We will do what is best for the horse.”
Speaking at Thurles yesterday, Ruby Walsh said: “He was just enjoying a routine canter in the indoor school at Ditcheat last Friday. It was something we have done every year before Cheltenham.
“The fact that Paul isn’t happy with him at the moment is an obvious worry. I know Paul will do the right thing by Kauto.
“I’ve no idea if he’ll miss the race, a lot can happen in 24 hours and it is two weeks away. As Paul said it’s 50-50 so we’ll see what happens.
“I’ve seen horses bounce back from this and win the next day. If he’s right he’ll run and if he’s not he won’t.
“I don’t even want to think about what I might ride if he doesn’t run.”
Paddy Power offer Kauto Star at 4-1 ‘with a run’ for the Gold Cup.
Paddy Power bet: 13-8 Long Run, 4-1 Kauto Star (With A Run), 6-1 Burton Port, 7 Grand Crus, 12 Midnight Chase, Quel Esprit, Synchronised, 16 Weird Al, 20 What A Friend, 33 bar.
Boylesports bet: 6-4 Long Run, 7-2 Kauto Star, 6 Grand Crus, 7 Burton Port, 10 Synchronised, 14 Midnight Chase, 14 Weird Al, Quel Esprit, 16 Captain Chris, 33 Diamond Harry, Medermit, Time For RuperWhat A Friend.
Three of Willie Mullins’ big hopes for the Cheltenham Festival all came through a workout at the Curragh earlier this week with flying colours.
Current champion hurdler Hurricane Fly, brilliant mare Quevega and the exciting novice Boston Bob all jumped a few hurdles in their work over a mile and a half.
“I am very happy with how they went,” said Mullins.
“They all worked well and all they jumped very well, particularly Boston Bob, his jumping was immaculate, he just looks a real natural.
“It’s a matter of keeping them sound from now until Cheltenham.”
Meanwhile, Big Zeb is reportedly in fine shape ahead of his bid to regain the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
The Colm Murphy-trained 11-year-old took the Cheltenham two-mile crown in 2010, but had to settle for second place behind Sizing Europe 12 months ago.
Last year’s winner also beat him in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown four weeks ago.
However, connections expect Big Zeb to be a different proposition when the pair renew rivalry on March 14.
* Former Triumph Hurdle winner Zaynar has left Nick Williams and will join David Pipe with immediate effect.
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