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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
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

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines