The shock news that the beloved Kauto Star may well miss the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 16 following a fall on the schooling grounds at Ditcheat has sent shock waves through the National Hunt scene and resulted in major adjustments in the ante-post market for the blue riband contest, writes Elliot Slater.
The head-to-head between the Paul Nicholls-trained 12-year-old, a dual winner of the Gold Cup, and last year’s hero Long Run, has been the shining jewel in the crown of this season’s Cheltenham Festival and without the five-time King George VI Chase winner the race would undoubtedly lose some of its lustre.
Nicholls came clean about the fall after realising that he couldn’t hush up the news any longer as the French-bred gelding is struggling to recover from the tumble that took place whilst schooling under Ruby Walsh and occurred at the very last fence of the training session. Those looking at the online Cheltenham Gold Cup odds will be hoping he can make a full recovery.
This season’s Betfair Chase and King George VI hero reportedly fell heavily, was a little stunned as a result, and has since been sore and missed vital training while undergoing physiotherapy treatment. Nicholls has suggested that his chances of actually making the starting line up for the big race are now just 50-50, news which reverberated around the betting markets for the race and saw reigning champion Long Run cut from 9/4 to 6/4 favourite. Kauto Star has been pushed out from 7/2 to 9/2 in places while Burton Port and Grand Crus have been trimmed in to just 7/1 apiece.
A true racing great even before this season’s heroics, Kauto Star has defied his years with two outstanding efforts this term and has long looked the one real live hope of defeating Long Run at Cheltenham having put Nicky Henderson’s star in his place twice during the winter months. All eyes and ears will be on Ditcheat anxiously awaiting news of a much hoped for quick recovery for the great horse.