herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Kauto on brink of immortality

DAY FOUR SELECTIONS

Kauto Star is a winner of 20 races in what has been an illustrious career spanning more than seven years, but tomorrow's Gold Cup is potentially the race that will ensure he will be forever held in the same breath as Arkle and even Golden Miller.

Not that too many will fail to remember him on the back of four King Georges at Kempton and the historic feat of becoming the first horse to win back a Gold Cup having tasted defeat in between, but a win in the week's blue riband event would undoubtedly shake the rafters.

Be it with an invested interest or purely as a sporting spectacle, you could count on one hand the number of people in Cheltenham that would not appreciate Kauto Star winning a third Gold Cup, and with the ground appearing to be playing into his favour, few could contemplate backing against him.

Tomorrow he will go for a third Gold Cup in a race that just lacks a little bit of hype after Denman failed to live up to his potential last time out and doubts are now lying over his chances of emulating his stable companion and winning back the Gold Cup he won in 2008.

Indeed, rumours were even emerging this morning that Denman may be forced to miss the race with the ground being too quick for him. Willie Mulllins has sent over Cooldine in what has been a frustrating opening couple of days for our champion trainer, and last year's RSA winner will have to find a major lease of life if he is to topple the great Kauto.

Imperial Commander would not blow wind up the backside of a 100 per cent Kauto Star so he cannot be a Gold Cup winner all things being equal tomorrow, and therefore get ready for emotional scenes in Prestbury Park tomorrow at around half three in the afternoon.

Proceedings get under way tomorrow with the Triumph Hurdle and Ireland's poor record in this race may be put to bed for 12 months at least as Carlito Brigante and Alaivan spearhead a strong challenge.

Carlito Brigante is one of the NAPs of the meeting for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell, who will be back in the Gigginstown House Stud colours once more.

An impressive Leopardstown winner when seeing off a keen Alaivan, Carlito Brigante won either side of that career best at Musselburgh and is our best chance of landing these juvenile honours.

Alaivan is hard to knock and with a change of tactics employed since Leopardstown -- and once he handles the preliminaries -- he should run a big race for the ever-dangerous Edward O'Grady.

It could be quite a notable day for Paul Nolan and Alain Cawley who not so long ago teamed up for a career high with Joncol in the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown.

The pair have two very notable chances tomorrow afternoon with Noble Prince in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle and shortly after with Shinrock Paddy in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle over three miles.

The latter was ultra impressive when winning the Barry And Sandra Kelly Memorial Hurdle at Navan leaving some decent novices in his wake and with a bit of nicer ground on side to further enhance his chances, he may actually take a lot of whacking.

Noble Prince looked above average and beyond a handicapper in the early days and came from France with a big reputation, and the nicer ground and the good pace of the County Hurdle may just be what it takes to bring out the very best in him.

Gordon Elliott (pictured below), who goes in search of a first Cheltenham Festival winner either as a trainer or a jockey, with Carlito Brigante, has a good shout later in the day with Meath All Star in the Martin Pipe Conditional Riders Race.

Elliott has one of Ireland's leading claimers on his books in Keith Donoghue and he will be a valuable addition in a race Elliott would love to win having previously worked for Pipe and now being a very close friend of his son David.

The Festival is drawn to a close with the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual and the in-form Nicky Henderson has a sterling opportunity to win the race named in his father's honour as French Opera is the selection, while in the Foxhunters Baby Run may prove the solution in a tricky race where it would be great to see Dun Doire return to the winners' enclosure although the rain seems to be not coming in time for Sam Curling's first Festival runner.

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