By Skip Bandele

IN IRELAND, the 2005 Grand National winner Hedgehunter will return over the bigger obstacles in the Lexus Chase on December 28, having already had a pipe-opener over hurdles. He will not be expected to beat Michael Hourigan’s high-class Beef Or Salmon, however, who has won this event on three previous occasions.

The big attraction at Kempton will be Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls’ brilliant jumper is already being compared to the immortal Desert Orchid and is as short as 7-2 with bookmakers to complete the elusive King George-Gold Cup double. In his last outing he stepped back in distance to two miles and still pulverized a top-class field in Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase by a comfortable seven lengths.