Kauto Star regains Gold Cup

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The Independent Online

Kauto Star made Cheltenham Gold Cup history today by becoming the first horse to regain the trophy.

The nine-year-old gelding, which won the race two years ago, beat last season's winner Denman for another 1-2 by trainer Paul Nicholls and seventh winner of the meet for jockey Ruby Walsh.

The 2007 winner took the lead with three fences to go and pulled away to win by 13 lengths in the highlight race of the four-day Cheltenham Festival. A three-time winner of the King George VI at Kempton Park, Kauto Star went off the 7-4 favorite in the 3? mile (5.2 kilometer) race.

"He's the greatest horse I've ever ridden," said Walsh, who earlier became the first jockey to ride six winners and then stretched that record to seven. "Two miles, three miles, now two Gold Cups. He's magic, he's a wonder horse. He traveled super all the way."

Denman, again with Sam Thomas in the saddle, stayed with Kauto Star behind longtime leader Neptune Collonges for much of the race and there was the possibility that last year's first three home would do it again.

But Neptune Collonges failed to respond as his stablemates charged by with three fences to go. When Walsh got Kauto Star to break away, 7-1 shot Denman did not follow. The 9-year-old whose fast pace broke Kauto Star a year ago was found to have minor heart trouble last November and did not have the strength and power to come back to his stablemate this time, leaving Walsh alone in the uphill charge to the line.

Exotic Dancer, an 8-1 shot ridden by champion jockey Tony McCoy, got up to take third two lengths behind Denman.

"He's fit, he's fresh, he was never going to get beat today," Nicholls said of the winner. "But what a race Denman ran. It was a huge run from him and he'll be back next year.

"Kauto Star was fresh, very fit and the ground came right. He's a very good horse."