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Kauto in great nick for return

Connections of Kauto Star report the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero to be in fine shape for his first run since suffering a bad fall in the blue riband back in March.

He faces six rivals headed by Sizing Europe in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.

"He's as fit as he was when he went to Haydock last year and I'm very happy with him. He's worked nicely and there's no Imperial Commander to take on this weekend. It's a great place to start him," said trainer Paul Nicholls.

"Kempton (the King George) is a big goal, but Clive (Smith, owner) has always wanted to run him in a handicap. Two years ago he went to Down Royal, had a race at Haydock when he fell and then still won the King George.

"He could run at Down Royal, in the Hennessy and King George and then we'd keep him fresh for Cheltenham.

"That would only be four runs in a season. The horses aren't getting any younger and people like to see them. If we thought he was right and healthy the Hennessy is a possibility, but we haven't said any more than that."

Smith added: "It was quite an experience when we went to Down Royal a couple of years ago and it will be another big thrill. We're hopeful of a good run. As long as he goes through the race well we'd be very willing to have go (at the Hennessy).

"This season is probably the last real season when he's at the top of the game and why not have another run in between (before going for the King George).

"I'd always liked to have seen him put up against these good handicappers, so why not go for it? He won't have another run between the King George and the Gold Cup. We'll know more about him on Saturday."

Of the Down Royal five-day entries only Tom Taaffe's Finger Onthe Pulse was withdrawn at the final declaration stage, so Kauto Star takes on Sizing Europe, China Rock, Coolcashin, Killyglen, Mossbank and Trafford Lad.

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