Kauto Star made history yesterday by becoming the first horse to win the King George VI Chase four years in succession. Paul Nicholls's gelding came home in splendid isolation by a distance, with his jockey Ruby Walsh never suffering an anxious moment throughout the gruelling three-mile race. Sent off as the strong favourite, Kauto Star bettered Desert Orchid's record in the race, with the legendary old grey having won the Boxing Day spectacular four times, but not in succession.
Tom George's gallant Nacarat set a ferocious early pace up front under Sam Thomas, along with old-timer Ollie Magern. Before the race, experts felt Imperial Commander was the main threat to Kauto Star, but a terrible blunder at the second fence put paid to his chances. Walsh loomed up alongside Nacarat with fully half a mile to run and the rest of Kauto Gold's rivals were dropping away quickly. Madison Du Berlais battled gamely to take a distant second with Barbers Shop third, but in truth there was only one horse in it.
Walsh said: "For any horse to come back for the same race four years on the trot is some ask, but to win it is incredible. Paul and Clifford [Baker, head lad] have done a smashing job at home with him and to do it four years on the bounce is amazing, it is an absolute privilege [to ride him]. "I'd say that was the best King George I've ridden in as regards pace, they went a really good gallop and I couldn't believe the way he jumped the fourth last.
"I was still on the bridle when I got to Nacarat, and Barbers Shop was the only other horse still in view. "It reminded me of the King George that Kicking King won the gallop they went. "Paul was right - he said he'd never had him better and that performance shows it. He's an amazing horse." Nicholls added: "He is amazing. I'd said it before, but I think that was the best he's ever been." "He was awesome today. I knew he was at his best, you can't believe how much he has improved.
"He's got it all now, he's got pace, he jumps, he stays and he is just a wonderful, wonderful horse teamed up with a brilliant jockey as well, they suit each other. "Hopefully he is good for racing, that's what we want." Kauto Star now turns his attention to trying to win a third Cheltenham Gold Cup next March. * PA Sport