Nicholls relishing Kauto challenge
Paul Nicholls is relishing the challenge of preparing Kauto Star for a fifth successive appearance in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup despite his disappointing run in the William Hill King George VI Chase.
The Ditcheat trainer has revealed that Clive Smith's brilliant chaser bled after his bid for a fifth consecutive victory in the Kempton feature, in which he could finish only third behind Long Run.
"I can reveal that when he got back and stuck his head in the water bucket, Kauto bled from both nostrils," Nicholls told his Betfair column.
"I can tell you now that reports of his demise are somewhat exaggerated and there is no talk of retirement here. I have just spoken to Clive. We agreed it gives us a bit of challenge with the horse and hopefully we, and most importantly, the horse will rise to it.
"He will be prepared for a tilt at a third Gold Cup victory in March - different ground, different track, different day - and we would like to aim him for a third victory at Down Royal in the autumn, too.
"As long as he is enjoying his racing and running well, then he will continue - he is 11, not 13.
"Saturday was undoubtedly a big disappointment. He was never travelling or jumping with any real fluency, but it wasn't as if he ran a poor race. Without his blunder at the second-last, he probably would have been a fair second to a very good horse. But that clearly wasn't his best form.
"I am not making excuses, but I can reveal that when he got back and stuck his head in the water bucket, he bled from both nostrils. He has never done it before, and will probably never do it again.
"It wasn't a big bleed, but it indicates he probably bled during the race (possibly after his mistake at the second-last, which meant he had to dig deep to get home). It is up to me and my team here at Ditcheat to get him right for Cheltenham and we will relish the challenge."
Nicholls went on: "We fancied The Nightingale to run well, but he may have found three miles too far. He finished distressed and we have discovered he has a fibrillating heart, similar to the problem Denman suffered from."