03/12/2009 11:00PM

Kauto Star reclaims Cheltenham Gold Cup


Kauto Star reclaimed his Cheltenham Gold Cup title from a stablemate and last year's winner, Denman, on Friday with a devastating 13-length victory in the world's premier steeplechase race.

Traveling easily throughout the 3 5/16-mile, $653,000 contest, Kauto Star, the 2007 Gold Cup winner, became the first horse to regain a Gold Cup title after having lost it as he avenged his seven-length runner-up finish of a year ago.

The race was also a personal triumph for trainer Paul Nicholls, who not only trains Kauto Star and Denman, but also the fourth- and fifth-place finishers, Neptune Collonges and My Will. Nicholls thus nearly duplicated the incredible feat of Michael Dickinson, who trained the first five home in the 1983 Gold Cup. Only third-place Exotic Dancer, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, could break through the Nicholls phalanx.

The winner of the last three runnings of Kempton Park's King George VI Chase, Kauto Star was challenged by Denman between the third- and second-to-last of the 22 fences, but winning rider Ruby Walsh knew that his mount had another gear in his box.

The victory of Kauto Star, the 7-4 favorite, provided Walsh with a record-setting seventh National Hunt Festival winner. Nicholls and Walsh had also combined on Wednesday for a second two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase triumph with Master Minded, whom many handicappers consider to be an even better steeplechaser than the 11-year-old Kauto Star.

Kauto Star will be aimed at both the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup again next year.