It was announced today that Kauto Star, one of the most successful National Hunt horses of all time, has been retired from racing.
It marks the end of a phenomenal career on the track. Kauto Star won 16 grade 1 races, including a record five King George VI Chases at Kempton Park and two Cheltenham Gold Cups.
After winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November 2011, followed by his fifth King George in December, Kauto seemed to be going better than ever and he remained in training for the Cheltenham Festival in March. However, he was pulled up by jockey Ruby Walsh midway through the Cheltenham Gold Cup, walking back towards the stands to rapturous applause.
The 12-year-old gelding spent the summer in the field with stablemate Denman, but when he came back into work trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith came to the decision that it was time to call it a day.
"We have had nine superb years with the horse but, after seeing him in his work these past few weeks, [we] were of the opinion that the time had arrived to retire him," Paul wrote in his Betfair blog.
"Kauto looks and feels as vibrant as ever... But I suspect Kauto will be like that when he is 20-years-old. And, deep down, we know he has done enough. 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," he continued.
"Kauto Star will be the hardest of acts to follow. He has given me my best days in the sport and, even though the Gold Cups and King Georges are the pinnacles for any staying chaser, with his 2009 Kempton win breathtakingly impressive, the raw emotion that followed his Haydock win last November will live longest in my memory."
While Kauto won't be aiming for his sixth King George, he will be heading back to Kempton on Boxing Day.
“Kauto Star is just the most fabulous racehorse and everyone at our racecourse who has witnessed his feats in the King George over the years feels privileged to have been here to be part of history," said Brian Clifford, Head of Racing and Clerk of the Course at Kempton Park. "His achievements in the King George may never be equalled; he was that good.
“Kempton Park will certainly miss him because spectators were so excited when they saw him on the track, but the good news is that Kauto’s owner Clive Smith has agreed that the superstar will be here with us again on Boxing Day on parade. We will also shortly be talking to Clive about a permanent tribute to Kauto Star at the racecourse.”