|Nicholls not concerned over Kauto Punchestown flop|
Odds-on favourite Kauto Star was pulled up in the feature Grade 1 Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup on Wednesday prompting renewed speculation that the star chaser may be retired by owner Clive Smith and trainer Paul Nicholls, writes Elliot Slater.
In a dramatic contest where none of the market principals figured in the finish as 20/1 chance Follow The Plan beat 40/1 shot Vic Venturi by 11-lengths, (with another 20/1 outsider Rare Bob finishing back in third), Kauto Star had appeared from the stands to be travelling well enough with a mile to run. As the pace quickened though the grand old stager quickly lost his position and Ruby Walsh had little hesitation in pulling him up when some way behind before the fourth last. Those who had placed free horse racing bets on him would have been very disappointed.
Walsh reported afterwards that he had never been happy with the way the star 11-year-old had been travelling, whilst Nicholls simply shrugged his shoulders and observed that this was the first time the four-time King George VI Chase and dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner had ever been asked to race on into the season as late as May, and that people should not be too quick to jump to any rash conclusions about the horse having run his last race.
Nicholls has already observed this season that the great horse is not the force of old, but he is still a very classy performer as he showed with his effort against Long Run and Denman in the classic renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, form that was clearly good enough to see him sent off at odds-on and that brought thousands to Punchestown in the hope that the iconic gelding could add another Grade 1 to his tally.
As it was things didn't work out that way and the racing public will have to wait and see whether or not they will get the chance to see this outstanding racehorse in competitive action again next season.