Kauto has swagger to keep Dancer in place

Among the remedies available against the numbing excesses of the season, the return of Kauto Star to Kempton today surpasses not only the hike over a frozen moortop, but even the fireside tot of whisky afterwards. His performance in the Stan James King George VI Chase last year proved as bracing as any steeplechasing elixir in recent years, and most neutrals will be hoping to see him repeat the dose against just half a dozen rivals.

Admittedly Paul Nicholls, his trainer, feels that Kauto Star comes here in a suitable spirit of giving. He feels that his champion is more vulnerable round this sharp, right-handed track than anywhere else he is likely to be seen. "Obviously he won the race last season, as well as two Tingle Creek Chases round Sandown," he said. "But I do think he gets himself into a bit of trouble on these [right-handed] tracks. I'm sure that's why he made those mistakes last year."

Certainly Kauto Star made two howling errors on that last visit, and Nicholls does not consider him in the classic mould of those who have made this such a specialists' race. In 11 runnings between 1982 and 1992, for instance, it was shared by just five horses. At the same time, Kauto Star does travel with the sort of swagger that enables jumpers to hold a position round Kempton. Arguably the demands of the race suit him better than his customary foil, Exotic Dancer, who finished eight lengths behind him last year.

Just as Nicholls insists that the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup will bring out "the ultimate" in Kauto Star, others suspect that Exotic Dancer will finally have his day there if they go a stronger gallop than last season. Either way, Nicholls respects his tenacity. "I have no doubt there'll be a day when, for whatever reason, he'll beat us," he said. "Whether he wants slower ground, I don't know, but he'll be the one we fear."

Nicholls is among those who suspect that My Way De Solzen, already a Festival winner over three miles and two, might end up being ideally suited by the intermediate distance of the Ryanair Chase. That would not disqualify him from this relative test of speed. Alan King is adamant that he was simply deceived by the ease of the horse's preparations for Haydock, and that he will be much fitter today. He looked an unusually talented novice last winter, and it would be nice to think that he could yet contribute to what seems a vintage crop of jumpers.

It takes some creative thinking to envisage Racing Demon coming up with anything radically better than when third last year, while the other three seem ineligible either in terms of stamina, class or both. The fly in the ointment might be Our Vic, who always runs so well fresh and represents a trainer in terrific form. Though unreliable, he has looked top class on his day and would be tempting but for the fact that he has been kept away from right-handed tracks since jumping left as a novice round Ascot.

Odds marginally short of evens make the favourite look perfectly respectable value in his own right. After all, it may be that the closer Exotic Dancer gets, race by race, the better he proves Kauto Star (2.30) to be.

Intimidating odds may also encourage many to oppose Harchibald (1.55) in the Stan James Christmas Hurdle, not least because he is still routinely accused of cowardice off the bridle. This is a horrible calumny. In reality, his response to the whip disappoints only those who fail to recognise his generosity up to that stage. His return from two years in the wilderness, following a variety of setbacks, was a joy to behold at Newcastle last month and he will surely outclass these rivals.

Joe Lively might take some pegging back in the Nigel Clark Feltham Novices' Chase if jumping with the same flair as at Cheltenham the other day, but that race rather fell apart around him and Barbers Shop (1.20) can make the necessary improvement after a promising start over an inadequate trip at Newbury. He has always looked the type to flourish over fences, and the same is true of Benetwood (3.05 next best) who promises to prosper for this extra distance.

At Wetherby Lothian Falcon (1.35) can untangle a knotty race for the Skybet Rowland Meyrick Chase. Though set too much to do last time, he is sustaining a progressive profile. But punters should save their best until last, as ONEFOURFUN (nap 3.35) deserves another chance to build on the improved form he showed on his reappearance. He would not be the first to do so for his impressive young trainer.

The Leopardstown meeting gets under way with two Grade One races. Just four runners line up for the Durkan Novice Chase, but these include smart prospects in Perce Rock and Sky's The Limit (2.25). Temlett (1.20) shaped well on unsuitable ground when taking his first look at hurdles and, progressive on the Flat, can prove one of the more promising juveniles in Ireland.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Onefourfun

(Wetherby 3.35)

NB: Benetwood

(Kempton 3.05)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'