Awesome Kauto Star ready for crack at third Gold Cup

TWO-TIME champion Kauto Star’s bid for a third Cheltenham Gold Cup has been given the green light, with trainer Paul Nicholls dispelling fears over the 12-year-old’s fitness with a ringing endorsement.

Nicholls (inset) described the renowned chaser as “awesome”, “foot perfect” and “magnificent” following a schooling yesterday morning taken by jockey Ruby Walsh, who will partner him in Friday’s showpiece race.

It follows fevered speculation that the five-time King George winner would not be fit for a hotly anticipated duel with Long Run in the climax to the Cheltenham Festival, which begins today. Nicholls rated Kauto Star only 50-50 for the Gold Cup, which he won in 2007 and 2009, following “a pretty awful fall” at the trainer’s Ditcheat yard earlier this month, which left owner Clive Smith harbouring “grave” concerns.

But encouraging improvements last week culminated in a successful racecourse gallop following Friday’s meeting at Wincanton, before yesterday’s exercise dispelled any doubts.

“Clive and I have given Kauto Star the green light for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after a very good schooling session on the grass,” Nicholls said. “Ruby came over to school him and Kauto was awesome, just as I’d thought he would be. He jumped six fences – the plain fence and the open ditch three times each – and he was foot perfect and looked magnificent.”