A Tribute to Kauto Star ahead of the King George
For many years I was an avid Horse Racing Fan but it wasn’t until you blessed the National Hunt Turf that I started to live and breathe Horse Racing.
With the King George Chase nearly upon us I thought it was a perfect time to write a tribute to Kauto Star who won the race a record 5 times. Never will we see a horse win this race 5 times again in my opinion. Kauto Star is simply a legend.
The Story of Kauto Star
Kauto Star was a french bred horse and was purchased by Clive Smith for £400k in 2004. It is quite ironic that the sale nearly never happened as Clive Smith went to France to purchase Garde Champetre but was outbid by JP McManus.
He didn’t want to leave France with nothing so purchased the ‘next best thing’ Kauto Star. For Clive Smith this was literally a blessing in disguise, and some!
Before moving to the UK, Kauto Star was nicknamed L’Extraterrestrial. Even in his early days the french clearly believed he had super powers. He had 10 runs in France and 4 wins to his name before making his debut at Newbury in this country.
He was an easy 9 length winner on his debut for Paul Nicholls and even then you could see he was going to be a star. He had to miss the 2005 Cheltenham Festival through injury but was back for the next season in which he won his first Tingle Creek in impressive fashion.
He was sent straight to the Cheltenham Festival after this run and was turning up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase without a run for over 3 months. He was sent off 2/1 favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase but was a faller at only the 3rd fence. I believe he would’ve easily won that race that season as it was a poor renewal of the race.
It was time for Kauto Star to step up in trip and this came at Aintree for his first start of the 2006/2007 season over 2m 4f for the Old Roan Chase. He gave away at least 9lb to the field but was terrific and won by an easy 22 lengths.
I remember watching and thinking “Wow” this is the Gold Cup winner. His next start was another step up in trip for the Betfair Chase over 3 miles. Kauto Star was sent off 11/10 favourite and he won in impressive style, a style in which you had to admire. This was certainly a Gold Cup winner waiting to happen if ever I saw one. After Paul Nicholls stepped him up to 3 miles it was time to show what a horse he had on his hands by stepping him back down in trip to 2 miles for the Tingle Creek Chase.
The outcome exactly the same and his 2nd win in the race. Was there anything this horse couldn’t do? An unbelievable horse no matter what trip he run over, he would win. Next up the King George over 3 miles. The horse probably didn’t know whether he was coming or going with all the change in trips but it just didn’t matter to Kauto Star he just took everything in his stride. It was so easy and he beat Exotic Dancer by 8 lengths for his first King George.
I thought he may have gone straight to the Gold Cup but he was sent to Newbury for the Aon Chase where he was given a fright for the first time that season by L’Ami. Kauto Star was made to fight hard and only just came out on top by a neck. The first signs of his battling qualities.
It was the big one next, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and another step up in trip to 3m 2f. After his last performance he had his critics and those who said he won’t stay, but he made a mockery of his doubters and produced breathtaking display to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Kauto Star even made a mess of the last fence and soared up the hill.
What a season for Kauto Star winning from 2m – 3m 2f. Could he bounce back and do the same for the 2007-2008 season?
2007 and 2008 Season
The season got underway at Aintree in the Old Roan Chase where he was trying to win the race for the 2nd season running. You could see in the paddock he wasn’t at his peak and the 11/10 in the betting told that story. Kauto Star was always giving 1 stone away to Aintree Specialist Monets Garden. He could only manage 2nd and the writing was on the wall 3 fences out. This race wasn’t a target he had a long season ahead of him.
Next up was Haydock where he won his 2nd Betfair Chase. He didn’t seem his usual self that day and it was hard work only winning by 1/2 length. Had the sparkle gone?
The King George was next and he was sent off 4/6 fav. He was so impressive this day to win by 11 lengths to take his 2nd King George and dreams of a 2nd Gold Cup were getting closer.
The Gold Cup arrived and it was a clash between Denman and Kauto Star. What a race and credit where its due, Denman was unstoppable out in front. Kauto Star had to settle for 2nd place as Denman set a relentless pace that he just couldn’t keep up with.
Kauto Star really was beatable and this horse who looked un-beatable for 2 years was finally put in his place fair and square.
This defeat was followed by another defeat at Aintree in the Aintree Bowl and all of a sudden Kauto Star looked half the horse of his former self.
Could he find his form the following season or had he gone at the game like so many other French horses who peak when they are young?
2008 and 2009 Season
The 2008-2009 started differently with a trip to Ireland for the JNWine Champion Chase where Kauto Star won by 11 lengths. It wasn’t the greatest race so you couldn’t read much into the race.
He was aiming to win his 3rd Betfair Chase next up. He didn’t look a shadow of his former self all the way around and ended up falling at the last fence. He probably would’ve won the race but it wasn’t the Kauto Star we once knew. Could he win a 3rd King George?
Kauto was sent off 10/11 for the 2008 King George and wow was he impressive. He jumped well throughout and won by an easy 8 lengths. He even had time to make a trademark last fence blunder. The King was back and was in search to win back the Gold Cup.
He went straight to the Gold Cup after the King George and was sent off at a price of 7/4. I personally, was all over this price and couldn’t believe he was this big. Denman was also lining up in the race but had his problems that season so Kauto Star could surely take advantage of this?
He put in a devastating performance to win by 13 lengths and had his old rival back Denman back in 2nd. The roar when he came up the hill that day was incredible and it literally took the roof off. Kauto was back doing what he does best.
2009 and 2010 Season
The 2009-2010 started with him going straight to the Betfair Chase and Imperial Commander was the horse trying to test him. It was a great race and Kauto Star showed true guts and determination to win by the narrowest of margins. That was his 3rd Betfair Chase victory and his hardest fought win he had encountered in his career.
The King George was up next and he was sent off 8/13 and like every other year he won with ease. I would say this was his most impressive victory around the Kempton and his 4th win in the race. What a legend this horse was.
He again went straight to the Gold Cup and was sent off 8/11 fav. He was backed like defeat was out of the question and he was a certainty to win a 3rd Gold Cup. It wasn’t to be as he made a bad error at the 8th fence and he took time to recover. Just as he was getting a 2nd wind he fell 4 fences out. The dream was over of a 3rd Gold Cup. That was the last we saw of Kauto that season and you had to think age was catching up with him?
2010 and 2011 Season
A return to Down Royal for the JNWine Chase like in 2008 was his first start of the 2010 – 2011 season and he came away with a 4 length win against Sizing Europe. It was a decent performance but not a performance which told us an awful lot about the horse. He was heading straight for the King George which was rescheduled that season, on the 15th January.
Kauto Star was sent off 4/7 and he could only finish 3rd behind Long Run. He never travelled and being totally honest looked gone at the game. He was 11 now and it looked like all his hard races had taken its toll.
He was still going for his 3rd Gold Cup but had a new breed of horses like Long Run in his way.
He lined up in the 2011 Gold Cup and was sent off 5/1. He could only manage 3rd place behind Long Run and Denman in 2nd. It was sad to see such a great horse on the decline like this.
Kauto Star was sent to Punchestown for the first time for the Gold Cup in one final effort for a grade 1 on his CV. The horse never travelled and was pulled up. It was a real shame and the calls were for the horse to be retired. I have to admit I agreed with everyone. Throughout the summer racing fans waited in anticipation with news of retirement but heard nothing.
One final fling?
Kauto Star was to have one final season and his first start was at Haydock where he was sent off 6/1. He was going for his 4th Betfair Chase and I will admit my first thoughts were the 6/1 is way too big. If Paul Nicholls didn’t think he had the horse back then he would’ve been retired. You sometimes have to read between the lines and this was one of my favourite races of his career.
He went from the front and just kept jumping and jumping and stayed on all the way to the line in a show of real guts and top class attitude. What an effort and what a comeback. The reception he got that day will long live in my memory and he showed what a star he is. Only the great horses can comeback like this and he sure showed the world how special he was.
Could Kauto Star possibly win a 5th King George Chase?
Even after defeating Long Run in the Betfair Chase the bookies didn’t think he could do the same in the King George as they priced them up at Long Run evens and Kauto Star 3/1.
The reports from Paul Nicholls were that the horse was as good as ever and he looked a picture in the paddock. I was actually quietly confident and I steamed in with quite a hefty bet on Kauto Star.
The way he jumped that day was a joy to watch. He didn’t miss a fence and just kept stepping up the pace. He was never going to be caught and he ran them into the ground like the superstar that he is.
Thats 5 King Georges, 4 Betfair Chase and 2 Cheltenham Gold Cups and 2 Tingle Creeks, the horse of a life time.
He was on course to get a 3rd Gold Cup.
The week before the Gold Cup it was reported Kauto Star had a freak fall in training and was not certain to run. He managed to make it to the race but never really travelled and was pulled up at the 10th fence. It was a shame but the memories this horse has given us over the years you can never take away. What he has done for the sport is amazing helping it grow over the last 10 years.
Why was he different from the rest?
Kauto Star was unique. He could win races from 2m – 3m 2f. He had stamina combined with speed which is rare these days. He had a heart bigger than his rivals and the will to win. The determination and guts displayed on so many occasions is why he is so special. To comeback after being written off is why is a legend and will forever be remembered. The 5 King Georges will be why you will always mention his name in any conversation about the King George and likewise Betfair Chase. He was just a talent and something we rarely see grace the sport of kings.
There is a fine tribute I watched on YouTube here thanks to user Hannah Hooton – a must watch!
Thank you for the memories Kauto Star RIP.