Just when the opposition thought they might be getting closer to him Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh proved that to be a cruel illusion by winning a second consecutive Stan James King George VI Chase — in devastating style.
They came home 11 lengths clear of Our Vic with Exotic Dancer, last year’s runner-up back in third. Racing Demon, who appeared to fold going into the final bend, ran on again for fourth.
Kauto Star, now officially rated the joint highest rated chaser of the last 15 years — with Moscow Flyer — cruised to the front four out and jumped immaculately for Walsh. The last fence blunders of last season that characterised his winning now seem a thing of the past.
Trainer Paul Nicholls rated the victory more impressive than any of his previous wins. “It shows what a great horse he is,” he said. “You can tide him any way you like now. I said to Ruby don’t be afraid to be positive. If you want to take up the running go and make use of his jumping. I know he won the Tingle Creek last season but as far as I’m concerned he’s a stayer and if you’re in front turning for home they’ll struggle to pass you.”
It was Walsh’s first winner since he dislocated his shoulder at Cheltenham five and a half weeks ago.
The two big disappointments of the race were My Way De Solzen, last year’s Arkle winner, and Kauto Star’s stable-mate, Taranis. Both were pulled up before the race began in earnest. Taranis was lame with a tendon injury while there was no ready explanation for My Way De Solzen’s poor showing but he never travelled.
Nick Gifford’s Straw Bear is now back on course for the Champion Hurdle after beating Harchibald in a tight finish to the Christmas Hurdle.