Although the attention of the racing world has recently been focused on Royal Ascot and the sensational and undefeated Frankel, a developing story about another esteemed horse is also intriguing.

The beloved Paul Nicholls-trained chasing superstar Kauto Star appears by no means sure to be gracing the racing scene this winter if the uncertainty about his future expressed by the champion trainer at Wincanton last week is anything to go by.

The 12-year-old’s legions of fans have been eagerly anticipating his return to the fray with the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock towards the end of November (a race he won for the fourth time when improbably beating the then-reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup holder Long Run in a memorable renewal last season) expected to be the first port of call in what is generally assumed to be his swansong campaign.

But Nicholls has rather thrown a spanner into the works by clearly looking undecided as to whether or not to race on with the winner of a remarkable 23 of his 41 starts, including two Cheltenham Gold Cups and no less than five King George VI Chases. Speaking to Nick Luck on Racing UK, the man who has seen Kauto Star through all his scintillating successes in Britain and Ireland since he arrived at Ditcheat as a four-year-old from France way back in 2004, was notably non-committal for one so famously sure of himself when it comes to his racehorses.

In the past, Nicholls has laughed off suggestions of retirement for the gelded son of Village Star and was pilloried in some quarters after he insisted the horse should race on into last season, having ended the previous term looking something of a former glory when pulled up in the Punchestown Gold Cup. This time around all Nicholls would say was that he would have to discuss the matter at length with Kauto Star’s owner Clive Smith before coming to any decision, and appeared far from convincing when asked if the old horse still has what it takes to prove a force at the highest level.

Clearly wanting to do what is right for the horse and obviously conscious of the danger of injuring an equine superstar, who has become “public property,” Nicholls’ comments prompted Kauto Star’s odds in the ante-post market for this year’s King George VI Chase to be pushed out to a general 10/1 in a book headed by his old adversary Long Run, who is a top priced 4/1 favorite.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business