Will Hayler gets the inside line from Paul Nicholls ahead of the King George on Boxing Day.
By Will Hayler
Last Updated: 11/12/12 3:52pm
Pity the poor younger brother, always destined to live in the shadow thrown by an illustrious elder sibling.
Stood alongside Kauto Star, poor Kauto Stone doesn't get much of a look-in., forever subject to inevitable comparisons with his sibling.
Kauto Star made the William Hill King George VI Chase his own. His performance in winning the race in 2009 was something that will live with me until the last of my marbles roll away.
And so with Kauto Stone set to line up in the same race in a fortnight's time, this will surely be the first of a few hundred times that you hear the relative qualities of the two horses being assessed.
But don't expect Paul Nicholls to come over all rose-tinted when he is asked about the prospect of the family honour being maintained in this year's race.
"He's a little like Kauto Star in the sense that they share a lot of speed , but they don't have much else in common," Nicholls told a media gathering to promote the race on Monday.
"He's half the size, a different colour and a different profile. He doesn't look like his first cousin to be honest."
It was left to the affable Charlie Liverton, racing manager to Kauto Stone's owner Robin Geffen, to come to the horse's rescue.
"You couldn't not be impressed by the way he won last time," said Liverton. "He may not have the size or the scope, but he's got a magic twinkle. He may be the Jack [Russell] terrier of the yard, but by God he knows he's good."
Nicholls added that Kauto Stone and Al Ferof, his other King George contender, do all of their work together and will be brought together to the boil for Boxing Day.
Ruby Walsh will ride Al Ferof, but Kauto Stone's jockey won't be known until Thursday when Daryl Jacob's appeal against a 10-day ban received for mistaking the winning post and stopping riding for a few strides at Wincanton last week is heard by the British Horseracing Authority.
Nicholls didn't seem impressed at my suggestion that the stewards were forced to give him the ban as they couldn't have been sure as to whether Ulis de Vassy might still have won - there was, after all, only a neck between her and the winner. (As it happens I don't think Jacob's aberration made the slightest difference to the result. But for some inexplicable reason I felt obliged to play devil's advocate.)
"There was only a neck between them at the line," I said.
"A big neck," countered Nicholls, sharply. "And it doesn't matter if he wouldn't have won. And he wouldn't as anyone could have seen."
For what it's worth I hope Jacob wins his appeal. The decision to place a marker, shaped exactly like a winning post, right on the rail 100 yards from the actual finish must go down as one of the more baffling decisions taken in a sport full of baffling decisions. A half-decent lawyer should surely be able to make as much clear.
But from a punting point of view, it seems interesting that Jacob's availability to ride Kauto Stone seems of such importance to Nicholls.
He related a story whereby Ruby Walsh, upon finishing second to Sizing Europe in last year's Tingle Creek, told the trainer that he'd be looking forward to "next year's King George". Interesting.
Always eager to find a snippet of information to put me ahead of the field, I had a quick look at the piece of paper upon which Nicholls was doodling during lunch.
I'm not quite sure what I was looking for. A current top 10 of best-handicapped horses maybe. Or a breakdown of running plans for the next three weeks.
Instead there were lots of the usual stars and boxes that doodlers seem to enjoy so much and a couple of quotes scribbled down that other people had said.
Oh and one more thing. Next to Al Ferof's price in the King George betting were the words "too big". Just saying.