Kauto Star: A tribute to a National Hunt legend
The horse racing world has been rocked by the sad news that Kauto Star, one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time who rewrote the record books, has been put down after suffering pelvis and neck injuries in a fall in a paddock.
I was privileged to be present when Kauto notched several of his big races successes during a stunning career with champion trainer Paul Nicholls, and he is undoubtedly the best I have seen in my lifetime.
The 15-year-old had it all. He relished his racing, jumped for fun, and had a high cruising speed and potent turn of foot.
Kauto, like most geniuses, also had his flaws and would often try and uproot the final fence before somehow staying on his feet to land the spoils.
In a career lasting almost an incredible nine years, he won the King George VI Chase at Kempton a record five times and became the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup – winning in 2007 and 2009.
He won 23 of his 41 races, including two Tingle Creeks and four Betfair Chases, amassing £2,375,883 in win and place prize-money.
It seems strange that one race I will never forget is one in which Kauto Star suffered defeat at the hands of stable companion Denman.
It was in the 2008 Gold Cup, and the first time that the two superstars went head-to-head.
In one of the most thrilling and eagerly-awaited runnings of racing’s blue riband contest, Denman, nicknamed “The Tank”, put his main rival to the sword a fair way out and his slick jumping had Kauto Star making mistakes and in trouble going down the hill.
However, Kauto would not give in and despite a mistake at the last showed tremendous tenacity and guts to gamely stay on up the hill like a lion to be beaten by seven lengths.
He had given everything he had for his legion of fans, and a year later regained his Gold Cup crown and became the first horse in history to do so.
Kauto looked absolutely stunning on the day, and was sent off the heavily-backed 7/4 favourite.
His supporters never had an anxious moment as “King Kauto”, as he had now become affectionately known, strode to an impressive 13 length success over Denman in the hands of jockey Ruby Walsh.
It was poetry in motion, and I will never forget the huge roar as the horse that had captured the public’s imagination in a golden era for the sport strode back into the winners’ enclosure.
It was a spine-tingling moment at which I was proud to be present, and can be matched only by the emotion of Kauto’s fifth King George success when jumping impeccably and putting in an awesome display to beat Long Run by 1 1/2 lengths and bring the house down.
Owner Clive Smith and trainer Nicholls called time on Kauto’s career when he was pulled-up in the 2012 running of the Gold Cup, his sixth run in the big race.
Kauto Star went on to pursue a career in dressage with Laura Collett, and last December took part in a demonstration on the opening night of the London International Horse Show at Olympia.
However, he will always be remembered for his chasing exploits and was a horse that had the rare combination of speed and stamina which saw him capture the top prizes at races between 2m and 3m 2f.
He was a one off, and we are unlikely to see another like him.
Kauto Star may sadly no longer be with us, but his achievements and memories he provided will last forever and ensure that he goes down in history as a true legend.
RIP my friend you were a true Legend. Once in a lifetime. pic.twitter.com/tGBsz5wfZf
— Paul Nicholls (@PFNicholls) June 30, 2015
Sad news about KAUTO STAR the most complete chaser of the modern-era RIP pic.twitter.com/LpxUd867UV
— AP McCoy (@AP_McCoy) June 30, 2015
Very sorry to hear the sad news about Kauto Star – a great horse and true champion.
— David Pipe (@DavidPipeRacing) June 30, 2015
Deeply saddened to hear the news about Kauto Star, so many amazing memories of a true champion and incredible athlete pic.twitter.com/M2zfqWeTK9
— The Jockey Club (@TheJockeyClub) June 30, 2015
Brilliance and resilience don't often go together in National Hunt racing. For me it was what set Kauto Star apart.
— Richard Hoiles (@RichardHoiles) June 30, 2015
Kauto Star's owner, Clive Smith said: "I’m devastated. He was such a wonderful horse, but he did not suffer."
— Racing Post (@RacingPost) June 30, 2015
— Rupert Bell (@Rupertbell) June 30, 2015