Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Wise men should follow Kauto Star

Kauto Star's superstar status will save the bookies from a mega Christmas payout should the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner earn a record-breaking fourth consecutive King George VI Chase.

Hills have taken over sponsorship of this weekend’s two-day Winter Festival at Kempton, with Kauto Star looking to again defy the statistics on Boxing Day.

Paul Nicholls' nine-year-old became the first to reclaim the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup in March and is the 4-7 favourite with William Hill to add to his King George wins of the last three years.

David Hood for the sponsors said: “Kauto Star winning would be a sensational result but wouldn't be very expensive.

“He has been so short in the build-up that fortunes haven't been bet.

“On the day people will take two views. Some will play with high figures on Kauto Star or else have a small each-way bet on something else.

“He will be expensive on the day if he is put into accumulators with the likes of Go Native in the Christmas Hurdle.”

Desert Orchid is the only other four-time winner of the King George but his quartet of triumphs were interrupted by a second-place finish in the 1987 renewal.

Hood added: “We need our superstars and Desert Orchid held that mantle at one time.

“Let's hope Kauto Star can do what Dessie never did by winning the King George four times in a row — it will be great for racing.”

Desert Orchid captured hearts with his bold jumping some 20 years ago and David Elsworth's iconic grey also made the race his own on four separate occasions.

However, his quartet was truncated by a second-place finish 12 months after his first win in 1986, and Kauto Star is odds-on with the sponsors to end the decade with an epic performance.

Officials at Kempton have been printing off cricket-style Kauto '4' cards ready to be waved by the Boxing Day faithful and trainer Paul Nicholls is confident the nine-year-old has blossomed after being shaken up by Imperial Commander on his seasonal bow at Haydock.

“He looks great and has come on a ton for Haydock. The idea was that race was always going to mentally sharpen him up,” said the champion trainer.

“Two years ago he only beat Exotic Dancer half a length and he improved. Last year he may, or may not, have won at Haydock — he didn't perform to his best but improved afterwards.

“He has been in training a long time and a run just changes them. He looks better and is sharper and I couldn't be happier with him at the moment.”

The similarities between Kauto Star, who will again be ridden by Ruby Walsh, and Desert Orchid do not end with the King George.

Both were proven at extremes of distance as winners of the Gold Cup and Tingle Creek Chase, although former jockey Nicholls admits he was never on course for any of Dessie's Boxing Day victories.

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