Wednesday 26 October 2016

Kauto Star's death is a sad end for one of the greatest steeplechasers of our time

Keith Hamer

Published 30/06/2015 | 10:37

Kauto Star ridden by Ruby Walsh
Kauto Star ridden by Ruby Walsh

Kauto Star left the equine battlefield that is steeplechasing as one of the greats of the sport, and his tragic death in retirement is a sad end to his history-making life.

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Two Cheltenham Gold Cups, five King George VI Chases and four Betfair Chases among 16 Grade One successes from two miles to three and a quarter miles was a record second to none.

His achievements in a career lasting an incredible almost nine years were a testament to the horse's soundness, talent and enthusiasm.

The French-bred ace without question sat proudly as a racing institution, a legend of the winter game.

And he can, without much debate, be mentioned in the same breath as the colossus that is Arkle.

And like the immortal 'Himself' from the 1960s, Kauto Star will long be remembered by those who truly love their jumps racing.

Some might try to argue Kauto Star cannot be assessed as highly as Golden Miller, Arkle or even Desert Orchid because he never contested handicaps, giving masses of weight all round.

But he achieved other things they did not as his record shows and in winning the top races he defeated other top-notch performers.

One of his best performances was when he became the first horse in history to regain the Gold Cup in 2009 as he slammed by 13 lengths his stablemate and next-door neighbour Denman, who won two Hennessy Gold Cups at Newbury under a big weight.

He also clearly outpointed Sizing Europe in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in November 2010 and that horse went on to glory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase the following March.

Arkle has been the undisputed number one of steeplechasing since he graced the scene, but Kauto Star deserved the closest inspection.

Several times he was written off but he came back better ever.

Racing pundit John McCririck is one of the lucky ones who can recall those halcyon days when Arkle ruled the roost.

Speaking following his retirement, McCririck said: "Kauto Star will go down in history as one of the great steeplechasers, no question. He's not an Arkle, but we will never know.

"One of the difficulties we've got is that all sports, because of the physical regimes and the feeding and all those kinds of things, have improved.

"For all of us who ever saw Arkle he was the one, but Kauto Star doesn't come far behind."

McCririck believed the main reason we could have an accurate assessment of Kauto Star's ability was because of his rivalry with Denman.

"If Denman hadn't been there, Kauto Star would almost be in the Best Mate category - Best Mate wins but doesn't beat much is what you could argue," he added.

"I always compare Arkle and Mill House with Denman and Kauto Star.

"It's very similar. You had the powerhouse Denman like Mill House charging off in front, and the thrust and the speed of Kauto Star just like Arkle.

"I won't compare Kauto Star with him, as Arkle was the best we've ever seen.

"But there is the similarity, and racing, like all sports, needs the rivalries. Kauto Star and Denman had that and they lived next door to each other.

"I think Kauto Star was the elegant toff and Denman the streetfighter. You can imagine what they said to each other. It is extraordinary.

"Racing needed the Kauto Star-Denman rivalry just as it did with Arkle and Mill House in the early 1960s. Both came at the right time.

"He won four Betfair Chases at Haydock and they put up a statue in his honour. That's the kind of horse he is.

"His last win there was amazing. Paul Nicholls said it was the greatest day of his training career and just think of all the races he's won.

"To bring Kauto Star back like that was tremendous."

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