Kauto Star virtually confirmed himself a starter in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup after delighting connections in a gallop after racing at Wincanton.
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 Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat yard.
Kauto Star has since made massive strides in his race to be fit for the blue riband event next Friday, and Nicholls was keen to see how he fared in a racecourse spin with stablemate Mon Parrain.
Regular rider Ruby Walsh was on hand to put Kauto Star through his paces over two miles while Daryl Jacob teamed up with Mon Parrain, who is rated 150 himself.
The pair went just a steady pace early on, with Walsh easing to the front after half a mile and Mon Parrain settled a couple of lengths behind on his heels.
Mon Parrain came back up to join him turning for home and the pace upped a gentle notch down the straight, with the pair racing upsides each other.
Neither horse was asked any real questions and Kauto Star, who looked fresh and very well in himself beforehand, passed the post around a head in front.
Nicholls said: “I’m very, very pleased and Ruby said that he could hardly hold him.
“I didn’t want him to do too much but they quickened up a bit.
“If he’s all right tomorrow and schools on Monday, then I’d say we’re in business.
“I can’t tell you the difference between looking at him now and last Friday.
“It’s a phenomenal difference and it’s a huge relief because everyone can see if he’s in good or bad shape and he looked in really good order.
“He looks like he did before Haydock (Betfair Chase win) and the King George and he’s full of enthusiasm.
“We’ve still got another week now. I would say we are almost certain to be there.
“Last weekend we were very touch and go. Sunday I was thinking we were in trouble and thought the easiest thing would be not to run him, but the improvement has been unbelievable.
“It shows that it was a little knock and a bit of bruising. Everybody’s worked really hard.
“He’s responded to treatment, he’s come right and he’s got a lot of enthusiasm which helps you.
“That was a big test for him today and I’m absolutely thrilled with the way he went. I don’t think anybody could have a negative about that.
“He will jump two brush hurdles and a couple of bursh fences on Monday morning and Ruby will come over to do it.”
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