Strong Kempton field awaits Kauto

ALL 11 horses from the original 48-hour declaration stage for Saturday's rearranged William Hill King George VI Chase remain possible runners.

However, there will be at least one change in personnel as Tom Scudamore has been ruled out with a kidney injury meaning the ride on David Pipe's Madison du Berlais at Kempton is up for grabs.

"A decision regarding Madison du Berlais will be made later in the week, when the owners return from holiday," said Pipe.

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Robert Thornton looks like being on board Forpadydeplasterer unless something untoward happens to Barry Geraghty's mount Riverside Theatre.

"I've discussed it with Alan (King) this morning, it's looking likely that I'll be able to take the ride and I'm really looking forward to that," said Thornton.

"The argument says he keeps running into one too good and I think you'd probably settle for second again. He'd run well to finish second."

Forpadydeplasterer's trainer Tom Cooper is now just concerned about the prospect of steady rain all week.

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"It's still the plan to travel over, I've just got to worry about the ground now, there's a lot of rain forecast," Cooper said.

"Soft ground is something we could do without considering he's trying three miles for the first time. It's just one thing after another.

"We've had no problem with keeping on the move since Christmas, he won't get beaten for lack of fitness.

"I presume the riding plans are the same unless Barry Geraghty became available for some unforeseen reason. I just need to confirm with Dave Roberts (agent).

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"Hopefully the ground won't get too deep, and it is fresh ground too that hasn't been raced on since February.

"The travelling won't be a worry at least, he's used to all that now, he's pretty unflappable."

Geraghty also has some ground concerns for his mount, but Riverside Theatre does at least have some good course form to fall back on.

"He's good round Kempton. He'll handles most grounds but if it's too soft he'll have to try to cope with it," the Irish jockey told At The Races.

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"It's a track where I suppose you just want a horse that travels and has a good cruising speed."

Standing in everybody's way still is four-time winner Kauto Star – and second favourite Long Run's rider, the amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, believes an on-song Kauto Star is "almost unbeatable".

"I think if Kauto's on his best form then he's going to take a hell of a lot of beating," he said. "We've been watching Kauto's races over and over again looking for chinks in his armour and it's very hard to identify something.

"Having said that, Long Run has an enormous engine and everything he is doing at home gives us a lot of encouragement, but there's no doubt at all that Kauto on his day is almost unbeatable."

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BRIAN ELLISON will go in search of more big-race glory with Palomar in Saturday's Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton.

The Norton handler secured his first win at the highest level when Marsh Warbler landed the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday and his horses remain in tremendous heart in both forms of the game.

Palomar was last seen winning a jumpers' bumper at Southwell at the end of last month, his first start since a fine run in the November Handicap on the level.

On his last outing over hurdles, he landed a valuable event at Market Rasen and is currently on a career-high mark over timber.

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"He's in good fettle and he's run well in similar races," said Ellison.

"Obviously he won the 40,000 race at Market Rasen and has run well on the Flat since then and is in good form with himself.

"I thought we'd put him in and have a look. He should get a run anyway.

"He won one of those bumpers the other day, too, so he's going there in good form.

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"The horses couldn't be in better form. Our Flat horses and our jumpers are all going well."

Those towards the top of the handicap include Paul Nicholls' Like Minded and stablemate Organisateur along with Black Jack Blues, James De Vassey and Bygones Of Brid.

HOWARD JOHNSON has been charge by the British Horseracing Authority having admitted to running a horse that had undergone a neurectomy while under his care.

The neurectomy came to light following a post-mortem carried out on Striking Article after the horse was pulled up and euthanized at Musselburgh on February 7. The procedure involves severing nervous connection to the lower leg to cause numbness. It is banned under the Rules of Racing on welfare grounds.

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Johnson has also been charged under a separate investigation in relation to the administration of laurabolin, an anabolic steroid containing nandrolone, to three other horses under his care.

A provisional date of February 10 has been scheduled for the disciplinary panel of the BHA to consider the case.

Jessies Dream is to head straight for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival following his surprise defeat at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Trainer Gordon Elliott has lost none of his faith in David Johnson's gelding, drawing a line through his reverse at the hands of Magnanimity in a three-horse

affair and is expecting an improved display in March.

"He's come out of the race fine. It was just one of those days and we're putting a line through it and we're looking forward to Cheltenham in March," said the County Meath handler.

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