Kauto Star’s bid for a record fifth successive King George VI Chase looks almost certain to finally go ahead on Saturday at Kempton.
The race was originally scheduled for Boxing Day and the coveted ride on Kauto Star has proved to be a poisoned chalice.
Tony McCoy is the third jockey to be paired with the double Cheltenham Gold Cup winner following injuries to Ruby Walsh and then Noel Fehily.
Walsh has partnered Paul Nicholls’ charge to those four successive King George triumphs but a double leg fracture sustained at the Down Royal Festival in November — ironically about an hour after riding Kauto Star to victory in the feature JNwine.com Champion Chase — ended the Kildare jockey’s hopes of going for the historic win number five.
Nicholls then turned to the little-known Fehily but a wrist injury put paid to the 35-year-old’s chances.
Moneyglass rider McCoy got the nod from Nicholls after Fehily was ruled out.
Kempton clerk of the course Barney Clifford reports the track to be in good nick as preparations continue apace for Saturday's big race.
“It's good to soft, soft in places at the moment. We've had 31 millimetres of rain in the last 72 hours, but we've now been dry since yesterday afternoon,” Clifford said last night.
“The forecast is a little unsettled for this week with about three bands of rain due to move through with a possible 15-25mm of rain forecast over the entire week.
“That would really just keep us where we are at the moment, or perhaps it might just go soft, good to soft in places but I'm really pleased with the condition of the track.
“To be honest, we were starting to get a bit quick as we had nine centimetres of snow on the track but that equates to 9mm of rain when it's all melted which isn't really a lot.
“There is a six-metre strip of fresh ground that hasn't been raced on since last February to use so the track is in good shape.”
The race has been switched to Sandown in the past but Kempton officials are determined to hang on to their showpiece this time around.
“The King George really is the iconic race at Kempton so it was important to us that it was run here,” Clifford explained.
“I know the three-week delay was not ideal but it was very important to all involved that the race was reprogrammed here.
“It looks like being an excellent race too, not least with Kauto Star going for his fifth win,” he added.
Kauto Star’s stablemate The Nightingale — a winner at the Down Royal Festival — last night had his odds slashed from 20-1 to 12-1 for the big race. Ulster actor Jimmy Nesbitt’s Riverside Theatre is also 12-1.
Kauto Star is the red hot 5-6 favourite.