Kauto Star won the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup today for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh with consummate ease to become the first horse to take it again having surrendered it.

The 2007 champion was beaten last year by his stable-mate Denman, but the places were reversed this time. Neptune Collonges, also trained by Paul Nicholls, made the pace, and Kauto Star was always cruising behind the front-runners.

Denman, who came back from a heart operation with a disappointing run at Kempton last month, came under pressure from jockey Sam Thomas but kept on strongly up the hill. However, Kauto Star slipped away from him on the bend into the straight and jumped the last two fences in front and the result was never in doubt.

Kauto Star, the 7-4 favourite, was giving Ruby Walsh his seventh winner of the Cheltenham Festival. Like the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Master Minded, he is owned by Clive Smith, who has just one other horse in training – Royal Auclair, who fell in the Christie’s Foxhunter.

Walsh said: “He’s the greatest horse I’ve ever ridden. Two miles, three miles, now two Gold Cups. He’s magic, he’s a wonder horse.”

The horse is just 2-1 with bookmakers William Hill to win a third Gold Cup next year, while Denman, who ran a much better race than many people expected 13 lengths back in second, is 6-1 and 12-1 for the 2010 Grand National.

Paul Nicholls trained four out of the first five horses home — Neptune Collonges was fourth, and My Will was fifth. Only Exotic Dancer, third under AP McCoy, spoiled the party.

Cappa Bleu won the Christie’s Foxhunter for Richard Burton and Sheila Crow, the 11-2 favourite. Second was Turthen, ridden by Charlotte Tizzard, and Baby Run was third under Sam Twiston-Davies.

Don’t miss H&H’s full report on all the action from the Cheltenham Festival, on sale 19 March, ’09