William Hill King George VI Chase Kempton Date: 26 December, 1505 GMT Coverage: BBC Radio 5 live, Channel 4 Report/results:
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Kauto Star is bidding to outdo Desert Orchid's King George record
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC horse racing correspondent
Some of us thought the hectic Christmas racing season would never be quite the same again when the curtain finally came down on the thrilling Desert Orchid era.
Yuletide after yuletide, as certain as your great aunt's zany taste in (woollen) jumpers, 'Dessie' served up a cracker of a performance in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The enthusiastic grey with the giant leap galloped off with jump racing's midwinter feature for the first time in 1986.
When lining up in the next five runnings, winning three of them, as well as finishing second once and falling in what turned out to be his swansong appearance in 1991, the whole nation seemed to take the horse to their hearts.
Famously, a poll indicated he was better known than the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, Norman Lamont.
Surely, Dessie had set records to stand for generations, if, that is, they were ever matched.
And yet, ahead of the 59th running of the King George, Kauto Star stands on the verge of eclipsing Desert Orchid and all of the other champions who have claimed Kempton's three-mile Christmas showpiece.
Success on Boxing Day would give the nine-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls in Somerset and ridden by Irish jockey Ruby Walsh, the odds-on favourite, an historic fourth win in a row (Desert Orchid's run was interrupted).
Though, let's be honest, Kauto Star, owned by businessman Clive Smith, is largely already in a league of his own: the King George victories are part of a haul of 15 wins since arriving in the UK from France.
There have also been two Cheltenham Gold Cups (staged over a quarter of a mile further) and two Tingle Creek Chases (over a mile shorter) plus a variety of other top prizes.
Although admirably versatile himself, Desert Orchid was never so much at home at Cheltenham, jump racing's HQ, even though he did grind out Gold Cup success in 1989.
Yet Kauto Star, winner of his initial race of the season at Haydock by just a whisker from King George second favourite Imperial Commander, has never grabbed the nation's attention in the same manner as Dessie.
Maybe it is his bay (brownish) colouring rather than the more striking grey or, more simply, because in the 'noughties' racing is unable to command such a prominent position in society.
Whatever, Kauto has become as much part of the racing Christmas as your great-aunt's zany taste in jumpers, or indeed as Desert Orchid.
"He's come on a ton from Haydock," says Paul Nicholls, "and I couldn't be more pleased with him."
In which case, Kauto Star should carve out his big piece of Kempton history en route to a third Gold Cup clash against another member of the Nicholls academy, Denman.