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Nicholls hoping experience will pay


Kauto Star

Kauto Star

Kauto Star

Paul Nicholls is banking on Kauto Star and Denman's experience to repel the young pretenders in what he believes is a wide-open totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Kauto Star and Denman are now both 11 and have rivals queuing up behind, with the former finally losing his King George VI Chase crown to Long Run and the latter having been given a breathing operation after finishing third on his only start this term in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

Nicholls said: "It's a really interesting, open contest. You've got some nice young horses coming through and it's unfortunate that we lost a nice one on Saturday (in Pride Of Dulcote)."

He added: "I'm talking Long Run and Diamond Harry as younger horses, then you've got the three older lads who have been there and done it. It's probably as open as we've seen for a long time but I still feel the older three of Imperial Commander, Denman and Kauto are the ones to beat. All three love the track, they're all great horses and if they can all get there, it's going to be a great race."

Of the dual Gold Cup winner Kauto Star, Nicholls went on: "He's by no means a back number and Long Run looked awesome at Kempton. We did find a trickle of blood and he had a cold for a week afterwards, something he's never had before.

"I hope he might have a racecourse gallop beforehand. It's not something we have done before, but it would be just more of a case of giving him a day out at the races and maybe Ruby can have another sit on him, but we're very happy with him and looking forward to running him.

"Denman is not getting any younger either but he worked very nicely with Big Buck's yesterday and has had his breathing operation as we just felt he was fading at the end of his races. He made no noise yesterday when he worked, he looks great in his coat and seems really fit and enthusiastic."

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Nicholls is likely to field two more runners. The 2008 third Neptune Collonges is still thriving while he will give What A Friend another chance despite his defeat to stablemate Noland in last week's Aon Chase.

He went on: "Neptune Collonges has always run well at Cheltenham. He isn't getting any younger or quicker but he produced a fantastic effort to win the Argento Chase last month.

"I suspect What A Friend will run too, although we won't run him on very testing ground. We'll have to see with him - the Grand National might be a year too early but we could even give him an entry at Ayr in the spring."

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