Star attraction chases place in history

AGGRESSIVE winter weather may be affecting some of Paul Nicholls' forthcoming running plans but Kauto Star remains blissfully unaware of any such distractions at home in Somerset.

Nicholls is working towards a shot at creating history at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, when Kauto Star could become the first horse to win the William Hill King George VI Chase five times.

After making a successful reappearance in the Champion Chase in Northern Ireland, Nicholls and owner Clive Smith elected against an audacious attempt at winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in favour of preserving the brilliant gelding for Kempton.

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Nicholls admits time is no longer on Kauto Star's side as he approaches the age of 11 but, as he surveyed him in his showcase box at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat yesterday, the champion trainer has never seen his charge's skin looking better.

"Clive and I decided the King George was the priority and his preparation has gone exactly as we wanted," Nicholls said. "As we saw last year, he improved from the Betfair Chase to the King George, and hopefully he'll show the same improvement from Down Royal to the King George. He has done plenty of work, and with the race in three weeks' time on Sunday, we're exactly where we want to be."

With usual rider Ruby Walsh a long-term absentee, Nicholls' plans had to be shuffled again when his earmarked deputy Noel Fehily injured a wrist at Newbury last weekend, but the Irishman's problem was not as serious as first thought. "Hopefully Noel will be able to ride him - he could be back by the end of next week."

The sponsors make Kauto Star the 11-8 favourite for the race.