Walsh back in the saddle as Star chases place in history

Jockey tests his injury today before partnering the red-hot favourite at Kempton

Before the 2.30 at Kempton on Boxing Day, the focus will be on the 1.35 at less-exalted Thurles this afternoon. The Horse And Jockey Hotel Hurdle at the Co Tipperary track is the race in which Ruby Walsh, due to partner the red-hot favourite, Kauto Star, in the
King George VI Chase, makes his comeback after dislocating his left shoulderin a crunching fall at Cheltenham five weeks ago.

Walsh will put his injury to the test first on Paramount, one of the outsiders in a small field, and later in the afternoon on Cousin Peter in another hurdle race. The 28-year-old Irishman who has had the frustration of watching stand-in Sam Thomas, the No 2 at Paul Nicholls' stable, win a string of good prizes in his enforced absence has been riding out for his father, Ted, Paramount's trainer, for the past week. "I'm feeling good," he said, "and can't wait to be back in the swing of things."

Kauto Star, in particular, is one partner Walsh has missed. "He is thrilling," he said. "The power you feel, waiting on tap. You give him one squeeze, and that's it." The seven-year-old is bidding to become the 12th dual winner of the three-mile contest, on something of a specialist's track, that more often than the Gold Cup identifies the seasonal staying chasing champion.

Rivals to Clive Smith's top-class colour-bearer will include the two who chased him home last year, Exotic Dancer and Racing Demon, which means he must defy a statistical anomaly. On the seven previous occasions when the first three in the King George crossed swords again the following year, the winner was beaten. Arkle came in second to Dormant with the wholly valid excuse that he had broken a foot, but none of the other six Burrough Hill Lad, Desert Orchid, Barton Bank, One Man, First Gold and Florida Pearl could finish in the first three. Five of the placees thirds Dormant, Wayward Lad and The Fellow, and runners-up Florida Pearl and Best Mate went one or two better.

Wednesday will be Exotic Dancer's fourth crack at Kauto Star, but though Jonjo O'Neill's charge got closer than ever when beaten just half a length in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month, his rider, Tony McCoy, is realistic enough to expect once again to be following a star at Christmas. "Getting to him is one thing," he said, "getting past him quite another."

The first prize for the King George is 120,000, no mean sum but, just as 12 months ago, much more is at stake. The race is the second leg of a treble that could bring a bonus of 1 million, and last year Kauto Star famously scooped the jackpot when he added the Gold Cup to victories at Kempton and the first leg, the Betfair Chase.

A million would hardly buy a leg in a blue-blooded Flat racer but in jump racing it is a proper carrot, and 35 minutes before Kauto Star tries to emulate Christmas past, the hurdler Harchibald will also be aiming for a similar Christmas present. Seven figures is also on offer should the treble of the Fighting Fifth, Christmas and Champion Hurdles be completed.

Harchibald, the winner at Newcastle earlier this month, is the original equine riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The Noel Meade-trained eight-year-old has all the talent, but at times it most certainly exceeds his enthusiasm, despite Paul Carberry's most tactful efforts in the saddle. But the gelding raced only three times last year and may have forgotten that racing can be hard work, and perhaps that is the key to his box.

For Walsh, the week's riches waiting to be unlocked continueat Chepstow on Thursday, where he is due to partner the second favourite, Gungadu, in theWelsh National.

Then at Leopardstown on Friday, where he will renew his partnership with yet another of the chasing celebrities at Manor Farm, Denman who is vying for Gold Cup favouritism with Kauto Star since his runaway Hennessy Gold Cup win in the Lexus Chase.

Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
i100... and no one notices
Arts and Entertainment
Friends reunited: Julian Ovenden, Richard Cant and Matt Bardock in rehearsals for the Donmar revival of 'My Night
with Reg'
theatrePoignancy of Kevin Elyot's play being revived just after his death
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobThe successful ...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor