Owner Clive Smith today confirmed that Kauto Star, one of the greatest chasers of modern times, is set to run at next week’s Punchestown Festival.
The 11-year-old has won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice and Kempton’s King George VI Chase on four occasions and he is set to bid for a 15th career Grade 1 success in the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup next Wednesday (May 4). It will be a first appearance at Punchestown for Paul Nicholls’ charge, who most recently finished third to Long Run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is set to face some high-class rivals in the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup including recent Aintree Grade 1 winnerNacarat and the Willie Mullins-trained Kempes, winner of the Grade 1 Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February.
Smith revealed: “Kauto Star is very much on course for Punchestown. He is certainly full of beans at the moment and as good as he can be at 11 years of age. I think that he just suffered a bit from old age at Cheltenham and he would have been a good match for Long Run if he was four years younger.
“He came out of that run in very good order and we decided to miss the Sandown Gold Cup because the ground would have been very firm and we were glad that we didn’t risk him there. Hopefully the ground at Punchestown will be watered well and he can run another good race.
“I don’t think that the performance of Master Minded at Aintree will affect where we go with Kauto Star in the future. We will take it race by race with Kauto Star, obviously starting with Punchestown.
“If he comes out of next week’s race well, comes back after a good summer and feels good on the gallops, then we will go on with him. He will be retired anytime that we feel that he has had enough.
“Somebody suggested that he would be retired if he ran a bad race but it is more a question of whether he is feeling up to it or not – if he is not enjoying it, then he will be retired.
“He is still enjoying the training and sometimes you can do more damage to a horse by retiring them because they miss the daily routine. Clifford Baker rides Kauto Star everyday and he feels very good about him.”