Legendary Kauto Star can put McCoy in shade at Kempton

FOR once, AP McCoy will not be the centre of attention if, as expected, he wins today's King George VI Chase.

That accolade will, unquestionably, belong to the brilliant Kauto Star who is seeking an unprecedented fifth successive victory in the blue riband race.

Delayed by three weeks following the abandonment of Kempton's Boxing Day meeting, connections are even more confident that the 11-year-old will make racing history, and eclipse the legacy of four-time winner Desert Orchid, the charismatic grey who lit up racing.

And champion trainer Paul Nicholls could not be happier that McCoy, replacing the injured Ruby Walsh, has had time to become acquainted with the twice Cheltenham Gold Cup winner whose overall racing record has only been surpassed by the imperious Arkle, the pride of Ireland.

Even though McCoy had a rare off day when losing the 2001 King George on Best Mate as Jim Culloty's substitute – the champion would make amends 12 months later and record his only winner in the race – Nicholls has no qualms ahead of today's date with destiny, and says the forecast soft going is a huge advantage.

"It's a big pressure day and if anyone can handle that it's going to be AP (McCoy)," he said.

"Clifford Baker, my head lad, rode Kauto Star last Saturday and he keeps saying to me the horse feels as good as he has ever felt so I hope he's right.

"It is a totally different race to what it would have been on Boxing Day. It would have been really good ground then, today it looks like being really soft.

"That will be more of an advantage to him than it was on Boxing Day because a lot of horses would have been a bigger threat on good ground whereas on soft ground it will go against some of them so it's probably to his advantage."

The optimism of the Nicholls stable, as Kauto Star attempts to rubberstamp his place in the racing record books, stems from his successful comeback race in last November's JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.

On betting, Long Run is the biggest danger, but the Paddy Power Gold Cup third does not inspire confidence for such a tough assignment – even though he has schooled impressively for his amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen whose father, Robert, owns the horse.

Trainer Nicky Henderson believes the delay to the race has hindered Long Run's chances while the soft going will hinder the chances of stablemate Riverside Theatre.

But, while Kauto Star's rivals ponder the going, the aforementioned McCoy is relishing the chance to make racing history a month after he became the first jockey to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

As the most successful horse and rider of their time come together for the first time, McCoy simply said: "I cannot stop smiling at the thought of getting to ride such a brilliant racehorse."

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