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Page last updated at 23:38 GMT, Sunday, 31 October 2010

Kauto Star team ponder Hennessy clash with Denman

By Frank Keogh

Kauto Star
Kauto Star won a record fourth straight King George in 2009

Record-breaking steeplechaser Kauto Star is being considered for a run in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and a potential clash with stablemate Denman.

The four-time King George VI Chase and dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner returns to action at Down Royal on Saturday.

And owner Clive Smith said the chance of him then running at Newbury was "between 30% and 40%".

Smith told BBC Sport: "It might be nice for him to take everyone on in a big race like that."

Kauto Star suffered a heavy fall on his last appearance when he failed to live up to favouritism in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

The 10-year-old was looking to win chasing's blue riband event for the third time, but Imperial Commander took his crown with Denman in second.

The head lad Clifford Baker rides him every day and said there's no sign of the ageing process happening

Clive Smith on Kauto Star

It had been thought Kauto Star may run only three times this term, at Down Royal, in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day and the Gold Cup.

When it was revealed last week he had an entry in the Hennessy, which Denman has won twice, Smith indicated Kauto Star was rated less than a 20% chance to run at Newbury on 27 November.

But provided he emerges in good shape from Saturday's run in the JNWine.com Champion Chase, Newbury could be given serious consideration by trainer Paul Nicholls.

"It's just a little thought in the back of both our minds," said Smith. "I might move the likelihood up to 30 or 40%. There's a chance, and I definitely think it's worth some thought.

"I'm a sporting chap and like to see him run at the highest level. Nothing is certain, but it would be a great race to take everyone on. If everything went smoothly on Saturday and he doesn't make any mistakes or have an accident, we might well have a go."

606: DEBATE

Kauto Star and Denman have only met three times on the racecourse, with one Gold Cup victory apiece in their meetings before the 2010 clash.

They are considered by many to be the top staying chasers of the last 20 years, yet happen to be stabled in adjacent boxes at the Somerset yard of champion trainer Nicholls.

However, they have never met in a handicap chase like the Hennessy, where horses carry different weights according to their official ratings.

In November 2009, Denman became the first horse to win a second Hennessy since the Irish chaser Arkle.

At 11st 12lb, he was carrying 12lb more than his nearest rival in the race over three miles and two furlongs.

If Kauto Star and Denman were to run at Newbury it would mean many rivals would run 'out of the handicap', carrying more weight than their official rating.

Trainer Paul Nicholls with Denman and Kauto Star
Trainer Nicholls with Denman and Kauto Star

"In some ways, we wouldn't be opposed to having a go at the Hennessy as it could be his last season at the very top," said Smith. "It might be nice for him to run in a very big race like that.

"There's a good gap. The Hennessy is three weeks after Down Royal and a month before the King George."

Since arriving in England from France in 2004, Kauto Star has never finished out of the top two in the 21 races he has completed. He has fallen twice and unseated his rider once.

He is the only horse to have regained the Cheltenham Gold Cup after being beaten in the race, and made history again by surpassing Desert Orchid's achievements in winning the King George on Boxing Day for the fourth time on the trot.

Smith has said the horse was lucky to survive the blunder in the 2010 Gold Cup, and he will be anxiously watching from the sidelines on Saturday.

"I'll be nervous, alright. When I see him jumping well, the nerves go away," said the businessman, who bought the French-bred horse for £375,000 six years ago.

"Ruby has said since that the fall at Cheltenham was almost life-threatening, and we feel that he got away with it. He was a bit bad for a month afterwards."

Kauto Star now appears to have recovered from that mishap.

"He fell on his neck, so the muscles in his neck were quite sore but he was OK after three weeks," said Smith. "The head lad Clifford Baker rides him every day and said there's no sign of the ageing process happening. He's full of beans.

"I must have been to see him five times and he looks the same as ever."

Opponents on Saturday could include the Irish pair of China Rock and Sizing Europe.

"It will be no walkover. He might not be 100% wound up, because we want that on Boxing Day," said Smith.



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see also
Long Run handed Kauto challenge
27 Sep 10 |  Horse Racing
Kauto lucky after tumble - Smith
21 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Imperial Commander lands Gold Cup
19 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Kauto races to King George record
26 Dec 09 |  Horse Racing
Denman claims historic Hennessy
28 Nov 09 |  Horse Racing
Historic Gold Cup win for Kauto
13 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing


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