Kauto Star owner Clive Smith so relieved to retire legend safely
Kauto Star, the outstanding chaser who won two Gold Cups at the Cheltenham Festival, has been retired.
The 12-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by Clive Smith, bows out as one of the greatest horses in the history of National Hunt racing.
Kauto Star had been under consideration for another season of racing, but time has now been called on his career.
Smith said: “It’s always been in the back of my mind this summer that we should retire him and I’m pleased that we have made a final decision.”
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Kauto Star won 16 Grade One races during a magnificent career.
Although he became the first horse to reclaim the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2009, having firstly taken the blue riband of jumps racing in 2007, the esteemed chaser will also be fondly remembered for his five victories in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
He made history in December 2009 when becoming the first horse to win four consecutive renewals of the King George, but even better was to come last season.
Many believed retirement beckoned when he was pulled up in the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup in May 2011, but Kauto Star stunned the doubters with a fourth triumph on his comeback in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last November, in which he defeated Long Run, the 2011 Gold Cup hero, by eight lengths.
Nicholls and Smith then sent him back to Kempton for the King George on Boxing Day, when he produced arguably his greatest performance with an easy length-and-a-quarter defeat of old rival Long Run.
However, Kauto Star’s preparations for the 2012 Gold Cup took a blow in late February after Nicholls revealed he had taken “a pretty awful fall” during a schooling session.
Connections eventually gave him the go-ahead to compete in the race, but Ruby Walsh’s partner was pulled up with a circuit remaining.
History will still treat Kauto Star extremely kindly – and he will be remembered as being by far the best chaser of his generation.
Smith said: “We could have retired him a year ago. A lot of people said then he should be retired, but he came back with those terrific two wins.
“Then he had the schooling accident at home and, obviously, wasn’t able to show his best in the Gold Cup.
“We thought about whether we wanted him to go out like that and we gave him the summer off in the paddock as normal and decided we’d give him two months training to see how he would react.
“That brought us to the end of October, where we are now, and the decision has been made to call it a day.”
Other keynote triumphs included two wins in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and two successes in the Champion Chase at Down Royal.
The French-bred son of Village Star made his British debut at Newbury in December 2004, when victorious in a novice chase.
Instantly recognisable due to his striking white face, he was never out of the first three when completing a race – and was rated as highly as 193 in his pomp.
“He’s had a fantastic career and it’s great that he’s been able to retire safe and sound,” said Smith.
“It’s been lovely to have him, I’ve been very lucky to have had him.
“It’s very difficult to pick out highlights as he’s won 16 Grade Ones and every one of them has been a real delight.
“His comeback in the Betfair Chase last year was a bit special. It was such an exciting day, he got such a great reception from the crowd.
“Then he went and won a fifth King George and you are getting to the stage where it is beyond belief. But it is very hard to look past Gold Cups. He won two and you can’t get away from that.
“I think he’ll go to Kempton to parade on Boxing Day.”
Walsh won 17 races aboard Kauto Star – including his Gold Cup triumphs and his five victories in the King George.
He said: “He’s the horse of my lifetime. I’m very lucky to be the one who got to ride him. He had a few knocks and a few setbacks, but he was always an exceptional horse and a tough horse. He just kept coming back and getting back up to Grade One level again.”
KAUTO STAR TRIBUTES