Horse Racing: Star Tests Nerves on Gold Trail
Byline: ALASTAIR DOWN RACING'S No1 WRITER
AS A rule the appearance on a single race day of the best two-mile, two-and-a-half-mile and three-mile chaser in these islands would mean three horses in action on one afternoon.
But at Newbury on Saturday all of those boxes are ticked by just one exceptional animal, as the explosively talented Kauto Star has his last public warmup for the Gold Cup in the Aon Chase.
It is still not clear which rivals will be bold enough to take him on, though it is noticeable that the Irish are staying at home and, strictly on the form book, it will take a change of government to get Kauto Star beat.
For Paul Nicholls and his team the next few weeks will be like sitting on a powder keg while surreptitiously smoking a cigarette.
For head lad Clifford Baker there will be that early-morning flicker of worry as he goes into Kauto Star's box to see all is well, that those tendons on his front legs are cool to the touch and that the Gold Cup favourite is bright of eye and rarin' to go.
Nicholls's steep and searching main all-weather gallop maintains his horses at a 'high level of residual fitness. But Kauto Star will have to do that little bit extra before next Saturday, before they leave off him a fraction and then put the gun back to his head in the immediate run-up to the Gold Cup.
This is the time when things can go awry. It takes a cool head not to do too much with horses and overtrain them that little bit that sends them over the top - a process which gave rise to the old racing adage "left his race at home on the gallops".
That wouldn't be a problem at Ditcheat, where horses are monitored better than your Auntie Gertie in intensive care, but you are always on tenterhooks for that niggling training injury that puts years of planning into sudden peril. …