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Page last updated at 20:10 GMT, Sunday, 21 March 2010

Kauto Star lucky after Cheltenham fall - Smith

Kauto Star with jockey Ruby Walsh and owner Clive Smith
Smith (right) has enjoyed plenty of success with Kauto Star

By Frank Keogh

Dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star was lucky to survive his crashing fall during Friday's race, relieved owner Clive Smith has told BBC Sport.

The 2007 and 2009 champion, an 8-11 favourite, fell four from home in the race won by Imperial Commander, but escaped without serious injury.

"It was a terrible fall and we were so lucky to get away with it. He's an amazingly lucky horse," said Smith.

The owner added that Master Minded would be checked by a vet on Monday.

The dual champion chaser went off as 4-5 favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase but could only finish fourth behind Irish challenger Big Zeb.

The Gold Cup had been billed as a title decider between Kauto and his Paul Nicholls-trained Somerset stablemate Denman, the 2008 champion.

But 7-1 chance Imperial Commander, trained in Gloucestershire by Nigel Twiston-Davies, won by seven lengths after Kauto Star blundered at the eighth of 22 fences and then fell four from home.

"I don't know how he did not break his neck. Now we just want him to recover and do our best to get him as right as possible," said Smith.

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"We're lucky he's safe and sound, and 100%."

Kauto will not run again this season, but will return next term, providing he shows the willingness and fitness to reappear.

"He certainly will not run again unless he's as good as he can be. If there's any doubt at all, we won't be pushing him," said Smith.

"If he feels good we would not want to hold him back, and will certainly take it race by race.

"I still think we can come back and give him (Imperial Commander) a very good race, if not beat him.

"You never know. He'll be 11 next year, but still only a year older than Imperial Commander."

If Kauto Star shows no ill-effects from his exertions, he is likely to return in November, at Down Royal or Haydock, before potentially bidding for an historic fifth King George VI Chase victory at Kempton on Boxing Day.

A return in the 2011 Gold Cup is possible, where Smith rates Imperial Commander and Wednesday's RSA Chase winner Weapon's Amnesty as leading contenders.

"There are all the provisos, if everything goes right, we will try for the Gold Cup again," said Smith.

"He's such a performer, he might get close, but Imperial Commander could well improve and it will be tough.

"Imperial Commander ran a brilliant race, he was well ridden and it's all credit to Nigel Twiston-Davies. It was a very good training performance and he's a good chap

"I was impressed with Weapon's Amnesty. He came through to take it up before the last fence and looked a Gold Cup horse in the making."

Kauto Star had been primed to defend his title and was jumping well before his initial mistake, said Smith.

"That's just the rub of the green," said the golf course entrepreneur.

"Beforehand we said how fit and well he is, it sounds almost too good to be true.

"He was as fit as he's ever been in his life. That first mistake cost him everything and it's just a real shame.

"He's an amazing horse. I saw him being hosed off with water after the race, and he was very stiff and dejected, with bits of grass on his head. He was very down.

"He looked that way on Friday night and by Saturday morning, his head was up and he was alert as if nothing had happened."

Ruby Walsh on Master Minded
Ruby Walsh rode Master Minded in the Queen Mother Champion Chase

Imperial Commander lost by the shortest possibly distance, a nose, to Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.

Kauto went on to win a record fourth consecutive King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, winning by a distance, before being prepared for the Gold Cup.

Kauto's defeat was his third in five appearances at Cheltenham, but Smith insisted the course was not an issue for his horse.

He also said that Master Minded was still a bit sore after his defeat on Wednesday.

Before a winning return at Newbury in February, Master Minded had suffered with a cracked rib and muscle problem.

"Season after season, it's hard to win one race at Cheltenham and very hard to defend a title as Master Minded has proved," said Smith.

"He did not jump quite as straightforwardly as he has in the past, and there might still be a few little problems he can't tell us about.

"Paul (Nicholls) expressed the thought that he might be an 'in and out' performer, and might not be consistent."



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see also
Denman could race again in April
21 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Twist in Cheltenham Gold Cup tale
19 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Imperial Commander lands Gold Cup
19 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Big Zeb lands Champion Chase win
17 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
The Kauto Star story
29 Oct 12 |  Horse Racing
Kauto races to King George record
26 Dec 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded 'fine from January'
28 Nov 09 |  Horse Racing
Historic Gold Cup win for Kauto
13 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded romps to Chase win
11 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Kauto Star seals Gold Cup triumph
16 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing


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