KAUTO STAR became the only horse other than Desert Orchid to win three consecutive Stan James King George VI Chases on Boxing Day when, with his trademark clout of the last fence, he beat Alberta’s Run and former Champion Chaser Voy Por Ustedes eight lengths and half a length.

The further the field of 10 went, the better the winner got and it was a confident Ruby Walsh who jumped into the front rank at the fifth. This was in part to avoid Our Vic, who had begun jumping violently left, and the tiring Snoopy Loopy.

Imperial Commander, who was going ominously well turning for home, faded quickly in the straight and from then Alberta’s Run, who has been out of form since winning the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase last season, looked the biggest threat but only briefly as Kauto Star found another gear.

“I’m delighted for the horse,” said trainer Paul Nicholls, who criticised recent adverse press comment for picking holes in the horse. “He’ll go straight to the Gold Cup now and, hopefully, going there on the back of this run will re-invigorate the interest in the race like last year. He’s best extremely fit and very fresh. Then he’ll have one run in the autumn before coming here for an attempt at a fourth.”

Earlier, four years after winning the Christmas Hurdle, Harchibald returned from Ireland to win the race again for Paul Carberry and Noel Meade. He beat Snap Tie and Blue Bajan in a tight finish. Punjabi, the favourite, was in the firing line when he stepped at the second last flight and took a heavy fall.