Super seven stand in Kauto's way
Kauto Star faces seven rivals as he tries to regain the winning thread in Wednesday's Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup.
The three-mile-one-furlong heat is the highlight of day two of the Festival and Paul Nicholls' dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero arrives on the back of a gallant third behind Long Run and Denman in the blue riband.
Kauto Star will be making his Punchestown debut at the age of 11 and the Tom George-trained Nacarat looks to be one of his main rivals following his impressive pillar-to-post victory in the totesport Bowl at Aintree.
Willie Mullins' Gold Cup flop Kempes leads the home defence, along with Edward O'Grady's Tranquil Sea. Follow The Plan, Rare Bob, Roberto Goldback and Vic Venturi complete the eight-strong line-up.
Kempes won the Hennessy at Leopardstown in February and struck gold at this meeting last year when beating China Rock in the Growise Champion Novice Chase. He was, however, pulled up four out at Cheltenham.
Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, said: "He was just disappointing on the day, really, it was just one of those things. Nothing came to light afterwards, but he was never travelling and was beaten a long way out. It was disappointing.
"We've given him a break since then and Willie seems to be happy with him, so we're hoping for a nice run and to pick up some prize-money with him.
"He ran well when winning here last year so the ground should be fine for him and I'd say he's stepped up another gear since then.
"Kauto Star has not run a bad race all season really and if he ran back to his usual kind of form, he would just have to turn up to be hard to beat."