Star redefines laws of known universe

Nicholls may seek fifth King George after Kauto returns to brilliant best in humbling Long Run

Seldom can so many people have been so glad to be quite so wrong. At the same time, it seems pretty safe to say that those of us who had perceived an incipient decline in the most accomplished steeplechaser of recent times will abstain from any new debate over Kauto Star's next move. After his astounding, heart-warming renaissance at Haydock on Saturday, much the best course is to acknowledge that Paul Nicholls can be relied upon to make the right call.

His emotional attachment to the champion who both accelerated and distilled his own arrival at the top has long made Nicholls especially sensitive to opinion about Kauto Star. Having been profoundly affronted by suggestions that retirement might be the most prudent option for a horse who had won only one of his last five starts, he was entitled to make his feelings plain after Kauto Star won his 15th Grade One race and broke the course record.

In this stunning moment of vindication, however, Nicholls might also find it in his heart to see that few could realistically entertain a scenario with so little precedent in the sport's communal experience. For Kauto Star's longevity is founded not just in his own freakish gifts, physical and mental, but also in the groundbreaking husbandry of his trainer. Nobody else, after all, had ever managed to prolong a jumper's career sufficiently to win Grade One prizes in six consecutive seasons. And now Nicholls and his indefatigable talisman have made it seven.

Kauto Star won his first race for Nicholls before Long Run was even born. Yet how the younger horse was made to pay in the Betfair Chase for the insolence of his unsparing territorial gains last season, at both Kempton and Cheltenham. Nicholls, in fairness, had recognised the question marks over Kauto Star to the extent of permitting him none of the margin for error habitually reserved for his comeback. And Nicky Henderson, in contrast, was again making a clear priority of Boxing Day and the Festival in March.

Long Run did very well to renew his pursuit, after being forced into another worrying series of errors by the sheer aggression of Kauto Star's jumping under Ruby Walsh, and bookmakers retain him as warm favourite for the William Hill King George VI Chase. Conceivably, Nicholls and Clive Smith, who had already had their Kempton options fortified by Master Minded's own return to form down at Ascot, may decide that Saturday worked so well that it would be worth sitting out that race in order to get Kauto Star equally fresh for Cheltenham. But this horse breaks so many rules that it seems pointless to set him new ones.

Even Nicholls was freshly amazed by him yesterday. "I'm astounded how well Kauto has come out of the race," he said. "He has eaten up this morning and is as bright as a button. Last season, for whatever reason, he was finishing tired. But yesterday he was like he was two years ago. You'd hardly know he'd had a race. He mystifies me. We've got five weeks [to Kempton] so we'll see. Certainly, on yesterday's run he's entitled to be back there again."

Nicholls intends to let the dust settle before agreeing a strategy with Smith, but Master Minded seems certain to be aimed at the King George regardless. "He'd needed the run at Aintree and there was a huge improvement,' Nicholls said. "He was back on a right-handed track – which he does favour – and was awesome again yesterday. I think there is still improvement to come, because I have said all along I want him at his best for Boxing Day."

With Denman also looking to roll back the years, in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, another exciting Christmas beckons for the Ditcheat team. The Dublin track's big holiday meeting is also the target for Last Instalment, who announced himself among Ireland's best young chasing prospects when coasting home on the bridle at Punchestown yesterday. With Cheltenham in mind, however, Philip Fenton cautioned that soft ground is important to Last Instalment.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap Qianshan Leader (3.10 Kempton)

Looked ready to resume last season's progress after failing to get home over a longer trip at Exeter last time, still well there when briefly losing his footing turning in, and looks back on a feasible mark.

Next best Blindspin (2.15 Ludlow)

Irish raider shaped well in a tougher grade on his return and had suggested himself capable of better, especially given this kind of sharp test, when falling in a clear lead on home soil back in the spring.

One to watch Sunnyhillboy (Jonjo O'Neill) laid foundations for a season unlikely to climax until the spring Festivals when keeping on from midfield under a conditional rider at Haydock.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup