Farewell super Star: Sportsmail's tribute as Kauto Star retires
12:38 GMT, 31 October 2012
Kauto Star, one of the best
steeplechasers, of all time has been retired.
A massive question mark had hung
over the future of the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, who won the King George
VI Chase a remarkable five times, since he was pulled up when going for his
third Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.
Trainer Paul Nicholls In his Betfair
column: ‘We have had nine superb years
with the horse but, after seeing him in his work these past few weeks, myself,
(Head Lad) Clifford Baker and (assistant trainer) Dan Skelton were of the
opinion that the time had arrived to retire him.
Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh wins the Stan James King George VI Chase in 2008
‘Of course, as owner, the final
decision rested with Clive, but he agreed that the horse had done enough.
‘Don't get me wrong, Kauto looks
and feels as vibrant as ever, as those who saw him at our owners' Open Day last
month would testify to. He was mad fresh that day and continues to be as alert
as ever and very, very well in himself.
‘But I suspect Kauto will be like
that when he is 20-years-old.
‘Kauto is signing off in full
health and after a season in which he proved so many people wrong by winning a
fifth King George and a fourth Betfair Chase, to add to his two Cheltenham Gold
Cups and Tingle Creeks.
‘Who wouldn't want to train a
horse of this quality any more He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse, after all.
‘Ever since he won on his debut
for me at Newbury on December 29, 2004, the horse has consistently proved
himself a class apart.
'But sometimes, you have to listen
to your head and your heart, and both told me that retirement was the only
TRIBUTE BY MARCUS TOWNEND, RACING CORRESPONDENT
THE scale of the affection that the public held for Kauto Star was portrayed in the emotional seconds after he was pulled up in his fifth Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
The remainder of his rivals were still scrapping over the most prestigious prize in steeplechasing, millions of pounds were riding on the outcome, but the Festival crowd rose as one to applaud a steeplechaser who had earned the right to be named in the same list as the greats of the sport.
Some would argue at the top of that list.
Ruby Walsh riding Kauto Star after winning The William Hill King George VI Steeple Chase at Kempton racecourse in 2006
The cheers that echoed around jump racing’s most famous amphitheatre were in part fuelled by a feeling one of the icons of the game was leaving the stage.
Confirmation came from owner Clive Smith and trainer Paul Nicholls yesterday.
It is the right call. The risk to reward ratio was too unbalanced. With a shot at another Gold Cup ruled out, winning another Betfair Chase was hardly an incentive to carry on.
A sixth King George Tempting, maybe, but best, and safer, to remember the chaser that dominated Kempton on Boxing Day with that resurgent defeat of Long Run last year.
Quite simply, Kauto Star has gone out at the top, even if his last run did not have a fairytale end.
With him go a welter of memories – highs and lows, thrills and some spills and, never to be forgotten moments.
The grey beards might tell you Irish legends Arkle and has no peers in the staying chaser division.
Their sons will marvel at the achievements of Desert Orchid and the emotional connections triple Grand National winner Red Rum made with the wider public.
But, in 87 years time, when racing historians start compiling their pecking order of 21st century steeplechasing greats, Kauto Star’s name will be prominent in that debate.
There may be just over a 10th of the century gone but few will be willing to bet the remarkable record of Kauto Star will be matched, let alone superseded.
Twenty three wins from 41 races. Earnings of 2,375,883, the most ever for a jumper. A unique five King George VI Chases, two Gold Cups and two Tingle Creek Chase. Wins from two miles to three and a quarter.
Another glorious ride at Kempton for the great Star of the show
Like Desert Orchid, whose four-time King George record he beat, Kauto Star was both versatile and durable. Few horses can claim to compete at seven successive Cheltenham Festivals, let alone in the biggest races of the demanding meeting.
But Kauto Star always looked something special, being nicknamed ‘The Extraterrestrial’ by his original trainer in France, Serge Foucher, where he had his first 10 races.
It took an eyewatering bid of 400,000 euros from owner Clive Smith to prize him across The Channel and, even then, Foucher, was a reluctant seller.
He disappeared when bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley arrived with a vet to carry out an inspection, vital with such a high-risk purchase.
So fractious was Kauto Star that it was impossible to carry out a scope test to make sure he had no breathing issues. Smith took the gamble to press on with his purchase and it was a decision he would never regret.
The Nicholls team knew they had a special talent on their hands when Kauto Star made an exhilarating British debut, brushing aside Foreman, a horse good enough to finish fourth in the Champion Hurdle, by an easy nine lengths in a Newbury novice chase on December 29, 2004.
It was performance that made him a leading Arkle Chase but he would never make it to that season’s Festival, picking up an injury when being beaten a short-head by Mistral De la Cour at Exeter in a controversial run when re-mounted by Walsh after falling two out when clear.
Kauto Star pulls away from the first fence at Kempton in 2006
When he miraculously escaped serious injury when being trampled on in the following season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, a pattern seemed to be emerging of a brilliant horse, liable to catastrophic lapses in concentration.
That reputation only seemed to be emphasised when he successfully stepped up in distance, captured his first King George in 2006 but committed a series of last-fence errors.
The questions over his jumping irritated Nicholls and were brushed aside by Walsh but only served to augment his story.
He was no seat-of-the-pants performer but he kept his fans on the edge of their seats, knowing that his spectacular leaps carried with them a degree of difficulty that left little room for error.
But both questions over his jumping and his stamina, were brushed aside when he beat Exotic Dancer two and a half lengths to land his first Gold Cup three months later.
But, just when it looked like nothing could stop topple him, a challenge emerged from the next-door box in Nicholls’ Somerset stable – Denman.
…and another win at Kempton in 2007
Racing suddenly had a rivalry to match other sports, the public lapped it up and the reputation of both horses benefited.
The bundle of muscle that was Denman came out on top in 12 months later in the 2008 Gold Cup with Kauto Star below par only for the placings to be reversed in 2009 as Denman, his season disrupted by a heart problem, could not live with his stablemate.
The 2010 Gold Cup became the War of the Wolds but Kauto Star took a hideous fall and Denman couldn’t live with Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Imperial Commander.
A year on we had a battle to live up to that billing. The feeling was both of Nicholls’ chasers were up against – especially Kauto who had lost his King George crown to Nicky Henderson’s Long Run.
It was the latter who crossed the line in front at Cheltenham, seven lengths in front of Denman and 11 ahead of Kauto Star but only after one of the great Gold Cup battles.
Kauto may not have won but he had picked himself up of the deck and proved his racing heart beat as loud as ever.
It was that quality that characterised his last season and further endeared him to his fans.
Pulled up after a listless performance at Punchestown in May 2011, the pressure was on as Nicholls and Smith resisted call to retire Kauto Star and brought him back to win his fourth Betfair Chase in November.
The subsequent outpouring of emotion has seldom been seen on a British racecourse but it was repeated when he land his sixth King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, avenging his 2010 defeat by Long Run.
Kauto Star in his stable at Manor Farm, Ditcheat, Somerset.
It set up a potential Gold Cup showdown, only for a training ground fall to disrupt his preparation and, ultimately, lead to his failure to finish.
Kauto Star will now enjoy his retirement but still be in demand for public appearances. Regal gallop-pasts will no doubt be demanded at both Cheltenham and Kempton, where he boasts a record of five wins and a third from six starts.
A horse who helped take the supporters’ scarf from the football ground to the racetrack, and whose name and his performances crossed the normal boundaries of the sport can hardly be expected to slip away quietly.
He’ll be a hard act to follow.