Horse Racing with Jason Hall

Kauto Star ridden by Ruby Walsh going to post for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase, on Gold Cup Day, during the Cheltenham Festival.

Kauto Star ridden by Ruby Walsh going to post for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase, on Gold Cup Day, during the Cheltenham Festival.

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It would be remiss of me not to include in this week’s column a tribute to the career of the one of the all time greats of National Hunt racing, Kauto Star, whose retirement was announced a couple of days ago by his trainer Paul Nicholls.

At the age of 12 it seems the horse’s connections have made the correct decision on his behalf, and over the past nine years he has provided enthusiasts of the sport with numerous performances that will be remembered as outstanding moments – not only of their generation but in the entire history of jump racing. Kauto Star won 16 Grade One events in his time and they included five King George VI Chases and four Lancashire Chases. Those races are run on flat tracks where the emphasis is on speed and at his peak there was not a chaser around that could even get him off the bridle under those conditions. In winning two Cheltenham Gold Cups, Kauto Star proved his immense courage and class over a trip that was undoubtedly at his absolute limit, which gave strong staying types a small window of opportunity in which to test this supreme horse. Paul Nicholls had a few words to say about why the decision to draw stumps with this superb gelding had been made.

“After seeing him in his work these past few weeks, myself, Clifford and Dan (the trainer’s principal assistants) were of the opinion that the time had arrived to retire him.

“Don’t get me wrong, Kauto looks and feels as vibrant as ever, as those who saw him at our owners’ open day last month would testify to. He was mad fresh that day and continues to be as alert as ever and very, very well in himself. But I suspect Kauto will be like that when he is 20 years old.”

Plumpton will be racing on Monday with a seven-race card scheduled. As is typical of the track, the quality is most likely to be found in the novice events and I am hoping Alan King, who has a penchant for introducing useful novices here, will be bringing Call Me A Star down for the opening event on the card. He contested classy bumper races last term and should be noted.