Kauto Star picture special
Tom Kerr recalls just some of the key moments and big-race successes in the legendary chaser's extraordinary career . . .
1. King George, Kempton - December 26, 2006
Already a winner of Grade 1 chases over trips between 2m and 3m, Kauto Star won his first King George in 2006, defeating the great rival of his early career Exotic Dancer by eight lengths. In what was to become his trademark, at least in the first stage of his career, he made an almighty hash of the last fence.
2. Gold Cup, Cheltenham - March 16, 2007
A first Gold Cup, and although it was far from spectacular it defied the naysayers who had predicted Cheltenham would expose his stamina and jumping. He made it round safely, saw out the trip, and after throwing in a last-fence hiccup he stayed on resolutely up the hill to defeat Exotic Dancer by two and a half lengths.
3. King George, Kempton - December 26, 2007
With something to prove having lost the Old Roan Chase to Monet's Garden and then only scraped home from Exotic Dancer in the Betfair Chase, Kauto Star responded with gusto. He jumped arguably as well as he ever had and went clear fully five fences from home.
4. King George, Kempton - December 26, 2008
Kauto Star went to Kempton the next Christmas bidding to match Desert Orchid's feat of three consecutive King George victories. There were doubts surrounding his jumping - he had unseated in his last race, the Betfair Chase - but he put in a sound round of jumping and surged clear to win the race long before the finish. Even a customary last fence blunder could not detract from an eight-length romp.
5. Gold Cup, Cheltenham - March 13, 2009
After losing to Denman at the previous year's Festival, Kauto Star made history by becoming the first horse ever to reclaim the Gold Cup. There may have been doubts over the fitness of his rivals - Denman was recovering from a heart defect that had threatened to end his career - but there was no quibbling with a performance out of the highest drawer. He jumped as well as he ever did at Cheltenham and stretched 13 lengths clear up the hill amid wild scenes at Prestbury Park.
6. King George, Kempton - December 26, 2009
And then he made history again. In becoming the first horse ever to win four consecutive King Georges, Kauto Star also delivered what Racing Post Ratings judged to be his finest ever performance. He jumped like Pegasus, travelled like a locomotive and accelerated like a cheetah. He won by 36 lengths - yet another record.
7. King George, Kempton - January 15, 2011
As he toiled to a distant third behind Nicky Henderson's Long Run it seemed as if age had at last caught up with Kauto Star. His jumping was again unreliable yet there was none of the youthful vitality which once made blunders seem trifiling, and when push came to shove he had no answer to the fleet-footed Long Run. Defeats in the Gold Cup and at Punchestown followed. Many confidently predicted retirement beckoned for Kauto Star.
8. Betfair Chase, Haydock - November 19, 2011
But no. The most incredible postscript to the most wonderful career began at Haydock, where Kauto Star again faced his King George and Gold Cup conqueror Long Run. Paul Nicholls had been quietly confident his now 11-year-old would run well, but even he could not have anticipated the thumping eight-length beating Kauto Star handed out to the upstart Long Run. As if only to emphasise the magnificence of it, Kauto Star even broke the course record.
9. King George, Kempton - December 26, 2011
And there was still time for one last hurrah. Kauto Star's last victory came at his second home, Kempton Park, where he won an unprecedented fifth King George. Unbowed by age or hard racing, Kauto Star summoned all his talents and once more treated his legions of supporters to a performance of dexterity and artistry. He jumped, he travelled, he accelerated, and to the roars of a sell-out crowd that filled the winter sky he won his 23rd and final race.