Betfair Chase the litmus test for Kauto 'King George' bid  

Clive Smith, owner of three-time race winner Kauto Star, has confirmed that a decision as to whether the outstanding 11-year-old former champion will take his chance in this season's King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day will not be taken until the Paul Nicholls-trained veteran has run at Haydock on November 19 in the 2011 Betfair Chase Festival, writes Elliot Slater.

Talk of retirement for the 14-time Grade 1 winner was all the rage after Kauto Star was pulled up on his final outing last term in the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup having come under pressure shortly after halfway before dropping out rapidly. The dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner (an odds-on favourite following his brave third to Long Run at Cheltenham a few weeks earlier), was eventually pulled up before the fifth from home in the race won by Follow The Plan. Anyone who had placed horse racing bets on him would have been disappointed.

After returning home Kauto Star recovered well from his exertions and enjoyed a summer at grass, and since returning to training at Nicholls' Ditcheat yard has been showing all his old zest, prompting any thoughts of retirement to be placed on the back-burner for the time being. Smith admits that should his great horse run poorly at Haydock in a race he has dominated over the past five years, then that would probably be an indication that enough is enough for the old warrior, but the current 10/1 ante-post shot is considered to be in fine shape for his latest clash with Long Run as well as other up-and-coming young stars such as Diamond Harry, Weird Al, and Time For Rupert.

Winner of the race on his seasonal bow in 2006, 2007 & 2009, and in front when stumbling after the last in 2008, Kauto Star won on his first appearance of last season at Down Royal and remains a horse who might just be at his very best first time out.

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