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Ulster swansong for Kauto Star

Kauto Star could round off his brilliant career with a record third victory in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at the Down Royal Festival later this year — something trainer Paul Nicholls had planned before the double Gold Cup winner’s laboured performance in the King George VI Chase.

Nicholls had pledged to send the 11-year-old over for another crack at the Festival feature race long before his third place finish when bidding for a record fifth successive King George at Kempton on Saturday.

Nicholls confirmed: “We would like to aim him for a third victory at Down Royal in the autumn.”

But that came as no surprise to Down Royal boss Mike Todd, who revealed: “Paul told me recently that he wanted Kauto Star to go for a third win in our big race, which would be a tremendous feat.

“He assured me that if Kauto Star stayed sound, he would bring him back to Down Royal.

“Kauto Star loves Down Royal, he has won the JNwine.com Champion Chase twice, he jumps our fences really well, he loves the track and he has beaten good horses there.

“We are absolutely delighted Paul is bringing Kauto Star back to Down Royal.

“He didn’t seem to be travelling well in the King George but the horse still has good races in him.

“Kauto Star runs well fresh and it would be great to see him back at Down Royal. I know that’s certainly the plan as far as Paul is concerned.

“And imagine if he wins a third JNwine.com Champion Chase — that would be fantastic.

“Beef Or Salmon has won it twice, Kauto Star has won it twice.

“Kauto Stay has already won two Cheltenham Gold Cups and four King Georges so he is a complete legend.

“It would be wonderful to have a horse of that calibre back here.”

Todd admitted that it will be extremely difficult for Kauto Star to add to his Cheltenham Gold Cup tally come March.

“I don’t see him winning a third Cheltenham Gold Cup — that’s a race for the young pretenders and Kauto Star is 11 years old,” explained Todd.

“He has been there, done it and bought the tee-shirt. He has nothing to prove.

“Long Run is an improving horse, then there’s also Imperial Commander.

“So it would be very challenging for Kauto Star to win another Gold Cup. But he still has Grade One victories in him and hopefully our race is one of them.

“Paul Nicholls took Saturday’s defeat on the chin — he has done a fantastic job keeping the horse fit and well for so long. He’s a training legend.

“If Kauto Star had of been with any other trainer I don’t think he would have won half as many races as he has won,” he added.

Kauto Star is 10-1 to win the Gold Cup, with last year’s winner Imperial Commander the 3-1 favourite.

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