After winning the hearts of racegoers across the country, fans were devastated to hear that Kauto Star had died earlier this week.
The 15-year-old gelding was one of the most popular and successful racehorses in history.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice and the King George VI Chase at Kempton a record five times.
He was put down on 29 June, aged 15, after injuring himself in the field.
Paul and head lad Clifford Baker talk to H&H about their memories of Kauto Star.
‘He knew he was a star’
Clifford looked after Kauto for eight years at the yard in Ditcheat, Somerset.
“He was the first horse I’d see when I came to feed them at 5.30am each day,” says Clifford.
“I’d ride him every day, and after all that time you become quite close to them. You’d like to think they go on forever but they don’t.
“Kauto was such a character, everyone liked him he was very, very friendly. He loved the camera and was a fan of carrots and polos. He always sharp, mind, he hated traffic. He was sharp to ride and that is why he was as good as he was.
“He lived in the first box and always stuck his head over the door with his ears pricked every time anyone came on the yard.
“It was a pleasure to be part of the whole experience, the public loved him. I always made sure people could have their photos with him, he was good for us, and for racing. There must be thousands of people with pictures with Kauto.
“He knew he was a star.”
Two Gold Cups
“He was just brilliant,” says Paul. “When he won his first Gold Cup (in 2007) after an amazing season we couldn’t believe it.
“When he won the second one (in 2009), after having lost it to his stablemate and great rival Denman the year before, it was very, very special. It was the pinnacle of his career.”
Five King Georges
In 2011 Kauto Star broke the record set by legendary grey Desert Orchid, taking his fifth King George title.
The 11-year-old Kauto Star thrilled the huge Boxing Day crowd at Kempton with a magnificent display of jumping to win under Ruby Walsh.
The French-bred gelding had lost his Christmas crown to Long Run the year before, but, despite being five years older than Long Run, Kauto Star held him off by a length on this occasion.
“It was awesome,” says Paul.
A fourth Betfair Chase
On 19 November 2011 Kauto arrived at Haydock to great anticipation. Many thought he was passed his best but he proved naysayers wrong.
“He’d had three ordinary runs before that, so I really put my head on the block and went for it, I knew he could do it,” says Paul. “People had written him off, but he won very convincingly. There were so many people there to see him, they were even clapping him in the paddock before he won. I’ll never forget that day.”
Kauto Star made all the running under Ruby Walsh and jumped in style, out-performing the favourite – and the then Gold Cup champion – Long Run.
The race was won in record time, and was an emotional day for racing fans.
Kauto won his fourth Betfair Chase by eight lengths and the popular horse entered the winners’ enclosure to defeaning applause and spontaneous “three cheers for Kauto”.
A genuine horse
“Although it’s not a nice memory, I’ll always remember when he fell schooling before the Gold Cup in 2012. It was a horrific fall, he certainly used up one of his lives there,” says Paul.
The horse was pulled up in the race and subsequently retired.
“He was so genuine though, he’d do anything for you,” adds Paul.
“There was just something about him, he was like your best mate. He’d always neigh at you and he’d watch every car in and out of the yard. He was different from his pal Denman who’d have your arm off! To look out of the office every day and see them was amazing.”