Kauto Star has been written off ahead of the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup but here are five reasons why the superstar will win the biggest prize at Pretbury Park
The holder rarely retains
This year's favourite Long Run established himself as the latest elite chaser by beating Denman and Kauto Star to the Gold Cup last March, however his progress has surprisingly stalled since, with just one victory in three outings and that an unconvincing success by half-a-length in a Grade 2 race. Also counting against the market leader is that even the mighty Kauto Star and Denman never managed to finish first two years in a row, with the dominant Best Mate (2002, 2003 and 2004) the only triumphant defending champion in the last 40 years.
Kauto Star has beaten the favourite twice
The Kauto Star comeback has been the sporting story of the decade so far. Critics who said that the two-time winner was done and that last year's third-place Gold Cup finish was his last hurrah have been silenced by a fourth Betfair Chase win and fifth King George VI Chase title. Those momentum shifters were all the more remarkable for having been achieved at the expense of the horse who was supposed to have hurried his retirement, Long Run. So having defeated his chief rival in their last two showdowns, should he really be as long as 4.5 to complete a hat-trick?
Age is an asset when in the right hands
The main question mark hanging over Kauto Star is that at 12, he is deemed too old to land the Gold Cup, but his recent Betfair Chase and King George VI Chase wins showed similar disregard for age trends. He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse who is revered because he defies the usual limits, as he did in 2009 to become the first to regain the Gold Cup after being dethroned, and with his current form when confronted by accusations of being past it. In Paul Nicholls, he has a trainer who knows both how to play the long game, prioritising sustained success over immediate glory and how to work to the strength of his charges. Look no further than stablemate See More Business for proof of Nicholls' ability to keep his horses winning until 'old' age, the 1999 Gold Cup champion victorious at the age of 13.
There's no more Denman to worry about
In each of the last four years, the task of prevailing has been made harder for Kauto Star by fighting stablemate Denman, who always applied huge pressure by setting a menacing pace. This time, on account of Denman's retirement in December, Kauto Star has a chance to assume the role of frontrunner and force Long Run to do the pursuing, a situation which could prompt jumping errors from the 2011 winner.
It's not a year for backing the favourite
Though the last 11 champions have all emerged from the top three in the betting - Burton Port is a fairly distant third this year at 8.8, having finished second in his last two races - the pattern across the last seven editions hints that the favourite won't deliver on this occasion. From 2005 onwards, after the Best Mate reign, the winner has alternated between being the favourite in odd-numbered years (Kicking King in 2005, Kauto Star in 2007 and 2009 and Long Run 12 months ago) and either second or third in line in even ones (War of Attrition in 2006, Denman in 2008 and Imperial Commander in 2010).