Exciting Santini facing test of credentials in red-hot Kauto Star heat

Strapping six-year-old shone on fencing debut

  • Monday 24 December
  • News
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Nicky Henderson’s Santini heads a magnificent field of seven as he bids to build on an impressive fencing debut in the 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park.

Long seen as a chaser in the making, the Grade One-winning novice hurdler lived up his billing in winning the Grade Two John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury at the beginning of the month.

But with dangers lurking at every turn in a high-class line-up, the Seven Barrows trainer admitted in his Unibet blog: “This is a hell of a race and whoever wins it will be a serious horse!

“Santini has come out of Newbury in great form and this has always been the plan ever since then. He jumps very well, and chasing is what he’s made for so I’m really excited about seeing how far he can go.

“The ground will not be a problem and I’m extremely happy with him.”

Paul Nicholls is hoping Topofthegame will live up to his name when he goes into Grade One company for the first time.

Nicholls is happy to give the six-year-old the chance at the top level in the race named after his five-times King George VI Chase winner after just one try over fences – in what was an extraordinary affair at Exeter.

Topofthegame was left at least 20 lengths at the start, yet put in such a good effort that he was only beaten three and a half lengths by Defi Du Seuil at the line.

“I’m looking forward to him running. He ran very well at Exeter the other day, but we hope it doesn’t get too dry for him,” said the Ditcheat handler.

“Sometimes making up the ground he like he had to Exeter can be flattering, as they went no gallop, but he still had to make it up.

“He jumped three (fences) 30 lengths behind them, but what it meant was he had a nice school round and he worked into the race nicely. He didn’t win, but it was a great prep race.”

Nicholls revealed Topofthegame has been accompanied in his preparations by stablemates Politologue and Clan Des Obeaux, who represent the stable in the King George on the same card.

“He has done plenty since and schooled on Thursday along with Politologue and Clan Des Obeaux. It has just been a case of keeping him ticking over,” he said.

Warren Greatrex sends his talented mare La Bague Au Roi into battle after she brushed aside her opponents in her two runs over fences.

Greatrex said: “It looks a very good race, but I think she deserves a chance. She seems to be in good form. I think the track will suit her. She’s won round there.

“We will take on the boys and give it a shot.”

Tom George has decided to run The Worlds End less than two weeks after he put up his best performance over fences to date at Cheltenham when he made all the running to slam Ibis Du Rheu by 26 lengths.

“We just back-tracked having said we didn’t think he would be going for that,” said the Slad handler.

“He came out of Cheltenham incredibly well visually and fresh. There are so few opportunities for him.

“We could have waited for February time when we could be up to our knees in mud, so we thought it best to keep him going and see how he copes with a different type of track.

“He’s in good form and we’ll see how we get on.”

The Harry Fry-trained Bags Groove has shown progressive form over fences, winning his last three races, while Kelly Morgan’s Red Indian and No Hassle Hoff, from Dan Skelton’s stable, make up the seven horses declared.

Exciting Santini facing test of credentials in red-hot Kauto Star heat
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