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McCoy geared to catch Kauto Star

Paul Nicholls believes the experience Tony McCoy will get from riding Denman in Saturday's Aon Chase at Newbury will prove “invaluable” ahead of their big clash with Kauto Star in March.

The champion jockey landed the plum mount on the 2008 Gold Cup winner after Ruby Walsh not surprisingly chose to stay loyal to Kauto Star for the totesport-sponsored blue riband.

Nicholls, a former jockey himself, expects Denman to use this weekend's race as practice with a small field likely after it was reopened.

“It made sense that if AP was going to ride him at Cheltenham that he would have one ride on him beforehand so that was the obvious thing to do,” said Nicholls.

“I've put (Grand National favourite) Tricky Trickster in it, as well as in a race at Exeter on Sunday. I suspect that if the race cuts up he will run at Newbury too.”

He went on: “In a small field it (tactics) will be fairly straightforward I suspect — he (Denman) is dead easy to ride, we'll have a quick chat and Ruby will obviously help him, it won't be too much of a problem.

“He can be a little bit mulish at the start, but that is just him.

“I always felt that when I was riding no matter how many times you ride a horse at home you know nothing about them until you have ridden them in a race.

“I think it will be invaluable for him to just have a ride on him.”

One of the few who will take on the Nicholls pair is Charlie Mann's Air Force One, who has not been seen since Punchestown last April.

“I do need to get a race into him, and if he can have a nice pop round behind Denman for some prize-money, that will be fine,” said Mann.

“The alternative to Newbury, should that be off, is the CGA Chase at Wincanton, but one race I do want to go for is the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster. After that it will be a shot at one of the Nationals.”

Meanwhile, Nicholls believes the totepool Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on Saturday will do current champion chaser Master Minded “the world of good” after his lay off.

Clive Smith's seven-year-old suffered his first defeat since Aintree 2008 in the Connaught Chase at Cheltenham in November, after which it was discovered he had been running with a fractured rib.

He has been back in work since early January but the Ditcheat handler has admitted he will improve for the run.

The race has been reopened after only four entries were received, with stablemate Take The Breeze and Voy Por Ustedes confirmed as two of the others. “I'm not sure if Master Minded has scared them all off but up until about 11.30am there was only him and Voy Por Ustedes, we've put one more in and I guess one other has gone in. It's reopened and I suspect it will be a small but select field,” said Nicholls.

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