There was a more upbeat bulletin about the wellbeing of Kauto Star from trainer Paul Nicholls today, but jockey Ruby Walsh was playing down the great one’s chances of wresting the title from reigning champ Long Run.
Kauto was reported to be no more than 50-50 for the race last week following a schooling fall with Walsh aboard ten days ago.
Nicholls was giving us better news today, writing in his Betfair column, “[Kauto Star] had his physio and an hour on the walker, as per usual. And then he had a 10f canter with Five Dream. But, in addition to that, he had a canter up the hill with the same horse. We will keep adding to this workload and tomorrow he will do the same, but have two canters up the hill instead of one. Again, he is fine and we are heading in the right direction at the moment.”
Walsh, meanwhile, was talking about his chances of adding to his 32 Festival winners – which, given that he has Hurricane Fly, Big Buck’s, Quevega and loads of others to look forward to – should happen sooner rather than later.
In relation to the Gold Cup, however, he was talking down the chances of making it three wins out of three against Long Run this season (Kauto having defeated Nicky Henderson’s stable star at Haydock and Kempton).
“I hope Kauto Star gets there 100%, but whether he'll win or not he'll be a great ride,” said Walsh, speaking to Racing UK today. “Realistically, I think over that trip Long Run will be very hard to beat. It's not Cheltenham that suits Long Run, it's the trip.”
Like Long Run, Sizing Europe will be bidding to defend a Cheltenham championship when he lines up for the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday week, for which he’s around an even money favourite at present.
With that in mind, he’s reported to be in fine fettle. (Incidentally, if anyone knows exactly what fettle is, and how fine it can get, please do let us know...)
Trainer Henry de Bromhead put Europe through his paces over more than a mile at the Curragh today, with his regular jockey Andrew Lynch aboard.
“He went very well under Andrew and we were very happy with him,” said Waterford’s King Henry. “It was nothing too heavy, it was just a bit of a blow-out over 10 furlongs. Things went according to plan and we have him where we want. We'll just tip away quietly with him between now and then.”
Leaving the championship events aside for a moment and looking at one of the big handicaps of the week, the Coral Cup, there was a bit of a shake-up in the betting today with the news of a notable withdrawal.
Module, from the Tom George stable, will miss the Festival and instead head straight for Aintree, with the decision put down to slight muscle injury.
George said of the five-year-old, “Module will not be running at Cheltenham Festival this year. He has a minor muscular issue and on top of this we also feel having only had four races in his life that Cheltenham may be hard on him taking into account his lack of experience. He will therefore be aimed at Aintree.”
Get Me Out of Here and Our Father are still vying for favouritism, with both of those cut a little in price today.