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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 March 2007, 15:05 GMT
Racing boosted by Kauto Star
By Frank Keogh at Cheltenham

Horse racing has been given a much-needed boost by one of the best Cheltenham Festivals in living memory, said winning Gold Cup trainer Paul Nicholls.

Kauto Star
Paul Nicholls, Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star dominated the week
The victory of Nicholls-trained Kauto Star in the blue riband of steeplechasing capped an exhilarating four days.

Racing as a whole has been hit by negative headlines after a number of race-fixing inquiries.

Nicholls said: "There's been a lot of negative press about racing, but this is one of the best Festivals I've been to."

At Nicholls' Ditcheat yard in Somerset, Kauto Star stays in the box next door to another of his Festival winners Denman.

If they stay sound, the impressive Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Chase winner Denman could go head-to-head with his neighbour in next year's Gold Cup.

606: DEBATE
Bookmakers rate Kauto Star a general 2-1 chance to triumph again in 2008, with Denman 6-1 and Champion Chase winner My Way De Solzen an 8-1 chance.

It could be a fascinating renewal should any of the leading injured chasers such as Ireland's 2005 champion Kicking King or 2006 winner War of Attrition return.

Also on the sidelines but capable of being contenders if coming back to fitness are Trabolgan and another Nicholls' horse, Star de Mohaison, winners of the previous two runnings of the novices' race.

KAUTO STAR WINS 2006-07
Nov, Aintree - Old Roan Chase, 2m 4f, Grade 2
Nov, Haydock - Betfair Chase, 3m, G1
Dec, Sandown - Tingle Creek, 2m, G1
Dec, Kempton - King George, 3m, G1
Feb, Newbury - Aon Chase, 3m, G2
Feb, Newbury - Aon Chase, 3m, G2
Mar, Cheltenham - Gold Cup, 3m 2.5f, G1
Jim Lewis, owner of the former triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate, was one of the first to congratulate Kauto Star's owner Clive Smith in the winner's enclosure.

"It was great. We need to have a new star around," Lewis told BBC Sport. "It's someone else's turn now. Hopefully, it's Clive's time - and he can enjoy a period of absolute ecstasy which this all brings.

"Kauto Star is good for the sport and has plenty of potential."

Welsh trainer Evan Williams, who saddled the Gold Cup sixth State of Play, also paid tribute to the winner.

"I think I speak for everyone in our sport when I say how brilliant it is to see such a true champion like Kauto Star," he said.

"He really is an absolute superstar."

Kauto Star has beaten Exotic Dancer by two-and-a-half lengths, and that is not that good form

Brough Scott
A sense of perspective was offered by the respected racing commentator Brough Scott, who has seen jump racing greats from Arkle to Desert Orchid.

"As a purely sporting performance, this was a fantastic achievement," said Scott.

Kauto Star, in similar fashion to 'Dessie', has now proved himself a versatile winner over different distances.

His six wins at six different tracks this season have ranged from two miles in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown to the three-and-a-half mile Gold Cup.

"He's quicker than any other Gold Cup winner we've ever had, with the possible exception of Desert Orchid," added Scott.

Kauto Star is aged seven, and potentially could run in Gold Cups for three or more years to come.

But the same was said about another seven-year-old, Kicking King, in 2005.

The Irish horse, trained by Tom Taaffe - the son of Arkle's jockey Pat - has been ruled out by injury since winning a second King George VI Chase in December of that year.

"On an equine level, Kauto Star has beaten Exotic Dancer by two-and-a-half lengths, and that is not that good form - he didn't win easily on the bridle" said Scott.

"It will be interesting to see how he progresses from here."

The horse is likely to be rested until next season, when a bid to win the Tingle Creek for the third time and a second King George at Kempton are likely to be main planks of the horse's campaign.

Meanwhile, Denman will go down a different route with the festive Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in Ireland a possibility.

Jockey Ruby Walsh is not thinking about which one he might ride should the selection dilemma arise.

"You only have to look at Kicking King and War of Attrition to know what can go wrong in racing, so why think about it now?" said Walsh, who was pipped for Festival leading rider by Robert Thornton.

"There is plenty of water to run under the bridge between now and next March."

Kauto Star is just 8-1 to emulate Arkle and Best Mate by completing a Gold Cup treble with victories in 2008 and 2009.

SEE ALSO
Cheltenham Festival 2007 schedule
28 Feb 07 |  Horse Racing
Kauto team hail Gold Cup 'superstar'
16 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing
Kauto Star seals Gold Cup triumph
16 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing
Quotes of the Festival
17 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham photos
16 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing
Inglis Drever wins second Hurdle
15 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing
Voy Por Ustedes romps to victory
14 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing
Sublimity claims Champion Hurdle
13 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing


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