Kauto Gives Nicholls Plenty Of Food For Thought

The morning after the day before, champion trainer Paul Nicholls and Clive Smith, owner of both of Saturday’s big race winners Kauto Star and Master Minded, were left pondering what to do next with regard to their long-range plans for their horses in the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, writes Elliot Slater.

When Master Minded bounced back to something very close to his best in beating the smart Somersby by three-lengths in the Grade 2 Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot, it appeared all roads would be certain to lead to Kempton at Christmas for the former dual champion chase winner who has been specifically trained this term to stay the extra yardage of the ‘King George’. Less than an hour later, after his stable companion Kauto Star had put up one of the great performances in modern times in coming back from the brink to beat reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run by eight-lengths to land his fourth Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock, all the talk at the Lancashire venue was of whether or not ‘Kauto’ would bid to win an unprecedented fifth title at the Sunbury track on December 26. Anyone looking to bet on King George VI Chase action should remember this.

On Sunday morning Kauto Star was reported to have taken the race very much in his stride leaving Nicholls and Smith with the ‘headache’ of deciding if the old warrior should be allowed to set a new standard for the coveted Kempton race, or to wait for other opportunities later in the term. Will they consider running both horses against each other, or could Master Minded drop out of the Kempton equation and be rerouted to an alternative Grade 1 target?

The answers will be forthcoming over the next few weeks, but whatever route they choose with their two stars, the Nicholls camp looks sure to put up a bold bid to deprive Long Run (second at Haydock on Saturday), of another triumph in the Christmas period jumps showcase event.