The Punter: Kauto Star has grounds to be fancied for Chase victory
Gold Cup king Kauto Star makes his seasonal debut in Saturday's Betfair Chase at Haydock and has been given an early-bird price of 11-10 to win win the race for a third successive time.
That price looks on the generous side, considering that Kauto has won eight of his last nine races at odds-on.
The reason for that ease in the price is down to two factors, the current form of the Paul Nicholls stable, which saw defeat last Sunday for Master Minded and the expected heavy ground at Haydock.
The latter should not be a major concern as Kauto won in very soft conditions at Down Royal last year and has a history of victories on such terrain. So on that basis, he has to be good value at this price especially at level weights over three miles.
On official ratings, he is 17lbs better than the next highest rated, Maison Du Berlais (169) trained by Martin Pipe and who was well beaten by Star at Cheltenham last March.
Kauto who won this race in 2006 and 2007, was denied a hat-trick last year when unseating Sam Thomas at the last when the 2-5 favourite.
Owner Clive Smith decided not to go to Down Royal this year, preferring to wait instead for the Betfair and the hint should be taken.
Also this weekend, Ascot stages the Coral Grade 2 Hurdle and this sees Nicky Henderson's Triumph Hurdle winner Zaynar back in action and the trip of two miles three and half furlongs should be right up his street.
Currently 5-2, the price should be taken as the second favourite Mr Thriller is not certain to run and may wait for the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday week.
Hardy Eustace, winner of this race in 2006 and 2007, is back for another crack and at 20-1 is worth an each-way shout.