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Horse Racing: Nicholls is confident Kauto can double up.

Byline: BY CHRIS WRIGHT Daily Post Staff

IT will take an "exceptional" performance to deny Kauto Star back-to-back totesport Cheltenham Gold Cups next month, according to his trainer Paul Nicholls.

The Ditchear handler has both the champion (Kauto Star) and challenger (Denman) in next month's mouth-watering clash, the highlight of the Cheltenham Festival.

Kauto Star will be ridden by Ruby Walsh, while Denman is due to be partnered by Sam Thomas.

But Nicholls - who also has Neptune Collonges, Gungadu, Star De Mohaison and Turko also entered in the blue riband event - still expects Ladbrokes and totesport's 5-4 favourite Kauto Star to triumph.

He said: "Both jockeys will be given orders to win the race.

"Recently I've said to Ruby Walsh to ride Kauto Star more positively, while Sam Thomas knows Denman needs a nice gallop. If someone is going a nice gallop, he can use that as a lead and if not he can bowl along. Ruby will ride the race from behind so there's no way they can cut each other's throats.

"If they do turn around that last bend together there will be some sort of roar I can tell you... with Neptune Collonges five lengths in front!

"I still think Kauto Star will be hard to beat. Whatever beats him will have to be exceptional.

"But no-one knows who is going to win. As for the bonus (Betfair Million), that's not what Clive (Smith, owner of Kauto Star) is doing it for. The bonus is there but he's doing it to win the Gold Cup.

"The rivalry is good for racing and good for everybody."

Nicholls added: "If I was in Ruby Walsh's shoes, I wouldn't get off Kauto Star. There's no way he could get off him. They quite often canter up the hill together but when they're doing fast work Denman works on his own because of the way he is.

Kauto Star often works with Mr Pointment or Master Minded."

Meanwhile dual Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever may be retired if he can complete the hat-trick in the stayers' championship at Cheltenham in two weeks.

Trainer Howard Johnson said of the nine-year-old: "I have had some good horses in my time, but he has kept me on the road.

"If he did win the stayers' for a third time then I would have a word with Mr Wylie and think about retiring him as I wouldn't want anything to happen to him."

TODAY'S NAP: Billyandi (2.20pm Southwell).

CAPTION(S):

Trainer Paul Nicholls with Denman (left) and Kauto Star (right) at his stables in Ditcheat
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2008
Words:432
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