What can I say about Kauto Star? He was quite brilliant today.
This was a better performance than his first Cheltenham Gold Cup win two years ago — and you can say that Denman has had a heart problem, nearly a year off etc as much as you like, but in my mind Kauto Star has always been the better chaser.
He wasn’t right last year, and got firmly beaten. But today, on song, they couldn’t get near him. Denman did run a very good race, and it’s good to see him back, but I think he ran the same race as last year. The difference was that Kauto Star ran a much better one.
Let’s hope Paul Nicholls and Clive Smith — how incredibly lucky he is as an owner — run him very selectively next year and keep him as fresh as paint, which is how he needs to be to win.
Sometimes I think I prefer Flat racing — after all, racing is about horses running as fast as they can, and the purest example of this is the best-quality Flat racing — but it’s extremely rare that a Flat horse engenders the amount of passion we saw at Cheltenham today.
The whole crowd, whether they backed him or not, roared for Kauto Star. They’ve seen his career like their own lives — the ups and downs, the falls, the disappointments, the high spots. Flat horses have to continue the upward trajectory, or it’s all over. National Hunt horses are like us — and who doesn’t deserve another chance?
The final score in the Britain v Ireland jockeys’ match was Ireland 21, Britain 5. Astonishing, isn’t it? Richard Burton and Felix de Giles added to Sam Waley-Cohen and Will Biddick’s efforts today, but we had to wait until the very last race for a British full professional jockey to win a race – well done Wayne Hutchinson (Felix de Giles is a conditional jockey – a pro-in-training, if you like).
And I’m delighted that Alan King finally trained a festival winner this week (Wayne’s mount Oh Crick), but I’m disappointed that H&H’s racing columnist Robert Thornton, King’s fantastic stable jockey, wasn’t riding it. He might not be such a happy bunny when I ring him on Sunday night to do his column… “So, how was your week?” might not be my first question. He’s a nice man and will be prosaic about it, but he will mind not adding to his festival tally of 15 very much.