03/16/2007 12:00AM

Kauto Star gets job done at Cheltenham


Kauto Star completed his undefeated championship season on Friday with a decisive victory in the world's premier steeplechase, the 3 5/16-mile $823,000 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

But his trainer, Paul Nicholls, and owner, Clive Smith, suffered through an anxious moment when Kauto Star blundered when well clear at the last fence, a repeat of the same mistake he had made in winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Dec. 26.

Rider Ruby Walsh held the 7-year-old gelding together, however, just as he had in the King George, when he defeated Exotic Dancer by eight lengths. This time his margin of victory over the same rival was 2 1/2 lengths, with Turpin Green the same margin away in third. The winning time for Kauto Star, the 5-4 favorite, was 6:40.20 on a course labeled good to soft, good in places.

Kauto Star sweetened the winning pot for owner Smith, who not only collects the $469,378 first prize but an additional 1-million-pound ($1,963,900) bonus from the bookmaking firm Betfair for having won the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Nov. 18, the King George VI Chase, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.