Judging by the media hype, the clash between reigning champion Kauto Star and former champ Denman in next month's Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most eagerly anticipated races for many years, writes Elliot Slater.
There's certainly no doubt these two horses will dominate the Cheltenham Festival betting and the event should attract some much needed publicity for the sport.
However, the recent reassessment of Kauto Star's King George VI romp at Kempton on Boxing Day has ruffled a few feathers. Senior BHA handicapper Phil Smith, having reviewed the performance a number of times, has decided to drop the horse by 2lbs, from 195 to 193. That rating is still higher than any horse for a number of decades and Smith has said that he will be more than happy to return Kauto Star to that mark or higher if subsequent performances merit it.
For his part, Denman has the opportunity to raise his own rating of 182 by putting in a big performance in the Aon Chase at Newbury on February 13th. He hasn't been seen since putting up that tremendous weight carrying effort in winning his second Hennessey Gold Cup at the track in late-November, having bypassed a possible outing in Cheltenham's Argento Chase last weekend.
Paul Nicholls, who trains both superstar chasers, reports them to be in great nick and is looking forward to the clash at Cheltenham on 19th March. Not since the days of Michael Dickinson in the early 1980s has one trainer so completely dominated the chasing scene. Odds of just 33/1 are now being offered about Nicholls repeating Dickinson's legendary feat in saddling the first five home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
A recent online poll suggests that the racing public is almost evenly divided with 51 per cent anticipating a win for Kauto Star and 49 per cent hoping Denman can beat his great rival. The most important thing for the neutral supporter and for racing itself is for both stars to be there on the day, fit and well and ready for battle.
For now, the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting makes Kauto Star slight favourite for the race, but that could change come the big day.