The 11-year-old Kauto Star thrilled a huge Boxing Day crowd at Kempton with a magnificent display of jumping to break Desert Orchid’s record and win a fifth William Hill King George VI Chase under Ruby Walsh.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, the French-bred dual Gold Cup winner lost his Christmas crown to Long Run last year. But, despite being five years older than Long Run, Kauto Star held him off by a length this time.
Walsh had Kauto Star positioned on the outside well up with the early leaders, Golan Way and Nacarat, and Sam Waley-Cohen tracked them on Long Run. But Kauto Star’s jumping was so extravagant that, with a circuit to go, he was in front and travelling beautifully. By the fourth fence from home, Kauto Star was four lengths clear and Waley-Cohen was having to ask Long Run for an effort.
Kauto Star, who started at 3-1, jumped the final fences perfectly and just tired a touch on the run-in, allowing the staying-on Long Run to get to his tail.
The crowd erupted as Kauto Star passed the post in front – he may not be grey, but he is just as popular as Desert Orchid in his hey-day.
“He’s amazing,” said Paul Nicholls. “I knew we had him in serious order. He’s just the best.”
Ruby Walsh joked: “He’s got the hang of it now, hasn’t he?”
Owner Clive Smith’s other runner in the race, the dual Champion Chase winner Master Minded, pulled up lame and was taken off for treatment.