Tony McCoy believes Kauto Star will be “impossible to beat” in the George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen's Day.
Paul Nicholls' brilliant nine-year-old is chasing a remarkable fourth successive victory in the Festive highlight having warmed up with a success in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
McCoy is set to get the leg up on last year's runner-up Albertas Run, but he does not hold out much hope of turning the tables.
“As we all know, Kauto Star is going to win,” McCoy said.
“He looks impossible to beat, but Albertas Run was a good second to him last year and hopefully that gives him a good chance of being in the money again.
“I can only see the weather upsetting Kauto Star. He's an amazing horse to have achieved what he has — two Tingle Creeks over two miles, three King Georges and two Gold Cups.
“He's an outstanding racehorse and will be very hard to beat.”
Kauto Star's rider Ruby Walsh is equally positive about his chances and feels the reigning champion could be even better than 12 months ago.
“I would say Kauto Star is as good if not better than last year,” Walsh said. “Kempton's been a very lucky track for me over the last couple of years and Kauto has been outstanding there. It's a race I really look forward to and I can't wait for it to come around.”
It was no great surprise to hear yesterday that Walsh is not contemplating defeat for the great nine-year-old on Boxing Day.
Last year Paul Nicholls' charge came to Kempton after a rare blip on his record, an unseating of Sam Thomas at Haydock, and consequently his starting price of 10-11 was the longest (using the word loosely) of his three victories.
But despite his troubled build-up, he was spot on for the moment and one abiding memory was the sight of Walsh having to steady his mount before the final turn, such was the power and ease with which he was jumping and galloping.
Walsh feels that the gelding, who inched home from Imperial Commander at Haydock last month, is certainly as good and possibly better this time round.
“I felt he would definitely improve a lot for that first run,” he said, “and Paul, who sees him every morning, says he has, so I'll take his word for it. Clifford Baker, who rides him in his work, is happy and if he is, I am too.”
Kauto Star has won the last three editions of the Grade 1 midwinter championship by an aggregate 27 lengths.