There is no bigger name in National Hunt Racing than that of the great Kauto Star and the 11 year-old is preparing for yet another Gold Cup run next week with owner Clive Smith bullish about his chances. It could prove to be the last Gold Cup run for Kauto this year as he goes looking for a third success in the race having won in 2007 and 2009, and the return of Ruby Walsh to the saddle could be crucial. Walsh has been the long time partner to Kauto Star through all of his big wins and it is a relief to connections that he has returned from a broken leg in time for Cheltenham. Walsh was missing when Kauto Star was well beaten into third place in the King George back in January, and some believe that the style of AP McCoy was not suitable for Kauto that day. It has to be said that Long Run was a deserved winner that day but Kauto was never travelling and it remains to be seen whether it was an off day or as some have suggested he is over the hill.
Clive Smith is certainly pleased Ruby Walsh will be back on board his pride and joy at the Festival, and many punters are taking that into account and are seeing a price of around 6/1 for Kauto Star winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup as great value. That is a price that will only shorten as we approach the race with plenty of sentimental money likely to come for the horse as he bids to add a historic third success. It will not be easy though with Imperial Commander set to take favouritism into the race as he bids to win the race for a second successive year. The Nigel Twiston-Davies horse was by far the best in the race last season but he is without a run since November and plenty of punters are looking to take him. Long Run is an obvious candidate following his King George win and clearly has the talent needed but he has a poor record at Cheltenham so far, and at just six years-old the race trends are not in his favour. Perhaps the one to watch could be Denman who like Kauto Star is likely to be facing his last serious chance to win another Gold Cup. The Tank ran well in the Hennessy last November and has a great record at the Cheltenham Festival, with that in mind punters will want to be backing him at around 6/1 for the race despite the fact he also looks slightly past his best.