Kauto Star - Legend of National Hunt
Updated: Mar 4
Kauto Star was one of the most successful steeplechasers ever to grace the racetrack. In France, he won a few races before moving to Paul Nicholls' yard in November 2004. He won the 2009 King George VI Chase by an astonishing 36 lengths, breaking Arkle's 44-year-old record. Afterwards, he was awarded a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 192, the highest ever given to a National Hunt horse.
Kauto Star amassed a whopping £2,375,883 in race prize money during his career and a further £1,000,000 in bonuses for the completion of the 2006/07 Triple Crown and for heading the BHA Table of Merit that same season. He retired in October 2012 and is rated as the joint-fourth-best steeplechase horse in history, surpassed only by Arkle, Flyingbolt and Sprinter Sacre.
(All facts correct at the time of writing, 02/10/22)
Village Star: A lightly raced French horse, Village Star collected £188,845 in earnings for his trainer Andre Fabre. He was the winner of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (a Group 1 flat race in France), whilst performing creditably in other Group 3, 2, and 1 events. After a brief career, he sired several horses, mainly sprinters, but none as impressive as Kauto Star. He passed away in 2003, aged 20.
Kauto Relka: Kauto Relka was an unraced filly but was the daughter of Port Etienne I who sired several Grade 1 winners. Barton, trained by Tim Easterby, and useful jumps horses including Prince Popof (France), Kadastrof, and Ivoire De Beaulieu are examples of these. Despite never running herself and only having a progeny of 7 horses, her offspring also includes Kauto Stone, Kauto Star’s half-brother, a Grade 1 winner who is also trained by Paul Nicholls.
There is little information when going further back into the progeny of Kauto Star’s sire and dam, but Kauto Star did his talking on the track where it mattered most!
Record (since joining Paul Nicholls) –
It’s fair to say, Kauto Star boasts a very impressive record. From 31 attempts in the UK/IRE, he won 19 of those, placing 7 times, with 16 wins in Grade 1 events. The only time he finished out of the top 3 was when he failed to complete the course!
Continuing from his Novice days right through to the end, Kauto Star won over distances varying from 2m right up to 3m 2.5f. He excelled on Good to Soft/Soft going (never running on any firmer than Good), but did also win 3 races on Good during his illustrious career. His favourite track, however, was perhaps Kempton, where he won the King George VI Chase five times.
Other than Ruby Walsh, the only jockeys to win aboard Kauto Star were Mick Fitzgerald when he piloted him in the 2005 Tingle Creek Trophy Chase, and Sam Thomas, when winning the 2007 Betfair Chase at Haydock. Kauto and Ruby have to be up there as one of the best jockey-horse combinations of all time!
Most Impressive Wins –
Kauto Star produced some of the most scintillating performances in National Hunt history, so it’s difficult to only pick a couple of his standout performances. For me though, his 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup and 2009 King George performances sit a fraction above the rest.
He won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007 but had his title taken away by arch-rival Denman a year later. In 2009 they were back, and Kauto was out for revenge. Piloted again by Ruby Walsh, the race followed a similar pattern. Kauto’s jumping this time, though, was considerably better. Denman battled on gamely as he always did, but approaching the second last, Kauto was pulling away and was soon in the clear. His lead stretched to 13 lengths approaching the line, winning impressively, and silencing his critics. That performance was not only impressive in the way he annihilated his opposition, but also in that he became the first horse to regain the cup after losing it.
In typical fashion, Kauto Star once again demolished his opposition in the 2009 King George VI Chase. Lining up against the likes of Madison Du Berlais, Albertas Run, and Imperial Commander, he produced one of the most amazing National Hunt performances ever seen. Again, under Ruby Walsh, Kauto jumped immaculately at nothing more than a steady canter. He took the lead after the 12th fence and gradually pulled clear. You’d be mistaken in thinking he’d gone too soon, as he showed all of his class, eventually beating the runner-up Madison Du Berlais to take a famous 36-length victory.
Truly magnificent in every aspect, he was a class above that day, a performance and a horse that will go down in history!
Kauto Star retired in October 2012 following his non-completion in the Cheltenham Gold Cup seven months prior. He was sent to Laura Collett (British Equestrian) and assessed to determine if he was suitable for the sport. He was due to compete in 2015 but passed away on 24th June that year after falling in his paddock. Three bones had been fractured, including a fracture to the spine which caused paralysis. He was humanely euthanized on 29th June 2015.
Comments from notable people -
Ruby Walsh following his tragic passing (2015) – “He was without a doubt the best chaser I’ve ever ridden, a horse in a lifetime. I’ll never ride one as good as him again. How could you? Just look at his record!”
Anthony Bromley (Bloodstock Agent) – “He’s the best I’ve ever been associated with!”
Clive Smith (Owner) – “He was an incredible horse with a lot of speed, winning over two miles in Tingle Creeks, then right up to the Gold Cups, which he needed a lot of stamina for. He was so brave, he had everything. He was the complete racehorse."
Paul Nicholls (Trainer) – “I’ve been very lucky to have trained some incredible horses, but I’ve always said he’s once in a lifetime. Even after he was written off, to come back and win his fourth Betfair Chase and a fifth King George said everything about him. He was just an amazing horse.”
Laura Collett (British Equestrian who looked after him following his retirement) – “It’s an honour and a privilege to have been involved with him and had him in the yard.”
From the rivalry with Denman to the hugely impressive 36L win in the King George, it’s hard to believe that we will see a steeplechaser with the class of Kauto Star anytime soon. His spectacular turn of foot and the way he cruised over his fences effortlessly are abilities that are hard to come by. He was the complete racehorse! A bit of a character off the track, but with bundles of ability, the talent he possessed was second to none. An unfortunate end to the life of one of horse racing’s greats, but he leaves behind a legacy that will live long in the minds of every horse racing fan ever!