Kauto Star, the legendary 12-year-old chaser, has retired. Here, we consider in detail his greatest days on a racecourse.
1) Tingle Creek Chase, Sandown, December 3, 2005
Kauto Star's first Grade One haul on British soil, ridden for the first and only time by Mick Fitzgerald. Putting in a number of magnificent leaps, he quickened right away in the straight to with authority. Nicholls said at the time he was still improving, while Fitzgerald felt he had given the horse a bad ride.
2) Betfair Chase, Haydock, November 18, 2006
Having previously won the Old Roan at Aintree on his first try at two and a half miles, this was his acid test to find out if he could truly be a Gold Cup contender. Travelling with typical ease throughout and jumping with aplomb, he stretched away to beat Beef Or Salmon by 17 lengths.
3) Tingle Creek Chase, Sandown, December 2, 2006
In an unpredictable and unprecedented move, Nicholls dropped Kauto Star right back to two miles following his Haydock romp and it certainly paid off. He proved much too good for previous Arkle winner Voy Por Ustedes and for the first time people were asking whether Kauto could be beaten over any trip.
4) King George VI Chase, Kempton, December 26, 2006
The winning run continued when he returned to three miles in the festive showpiece, annihilating his rivals by eight lengths and more. This was the first time he had produced that dreaded final-fence mistake, but he was in a different class and it didn't matter in the end.
5) Cheltenham Gold Cup, March 16, 2007
Having been made to work hard by L'Ami to win the AON Chase, the doubters were circling as Kauto headed for his first Gold Cup. However, as Nicholls had warned, he turned up at Cheltenham a much fitter horse and having pulled clear from the turn for home, he powered up the hill to give Walsh his first taste of Gold Cup glory. This took his tally to six from six for the season.
6) Betfair Chase, Haydock, November 27, 2007
Having suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Monet's Garden on his reappearance at Aintree, many were saying Kauto was in decline. Although he bounced back to winning ways at Haydock, the knives were still out as he only just managed to edge out Exotic Dancer and, remarkably, some felt he still had questions to answer.
7) King George VI Chase, Kempton, December 26, 2007
The doubters were well and truly put in their place as Kauto bounced right back to his brilliant best to take this prize for the second year in succession. Our Vic was some 11 lengths back in second and Exotic Dancer only third. Kauto was back.
8) Cheltenham Gold Cup, March 14, 2008
The most highly-anticipated Gold Cup in many a year as Kauto faced his stablemate Denman for the first time. Denman was arriving on the back of stunning performances in the Hennessy, Lexus and the AON Chase, but Kauto was sent off the odds-on favourite. The writing was on the wall early for his supporters as he made a series of jumping errors and eventually gave best as Denman stretched clear up the hill, the big showdown never really materialising.
9) King George VI Chase, Kempton, December 26, 2008
Having created plenty of controversy when unseating Sam Thomas at the final fence in the Betfair Chase, Kauto was back to his spellbinding best under Walsh as they completed the King George hat-trick. Nicholls felt he had found the key to his charge by keeping him fresh and he would now return to Cheltenham without another run.
10) Cheltenham Gold Cup, March 13, 2009
With Denman having suffered heart problems and being beaten on his comeback, Kauto was sent off favourite to gain his revenge. In a race totally different to 12 months previous, Kauto showed his trademark cruising speed to hit the front running down the hill. Bravely, Denman went with him up to the turn for home before Kauto kicked into overdrive to become the first horse in history to regain the Gold Cup crown.
11) Betfair Chase, Haydock, November 21, 2009
Kauto went on to claim his third triumph in this valuable prize but he was made to work hard. The previous season's Ryanair Chase winner Imperial Commander was right with him passing the post but Kauto Star was eventually named the winner by the shortest of noses, much to the disbelief of trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
12) King George VI Chase, Kempton, December 26, 2009
History beckoned as Kauto Star aimed to become the first horse to win four successive King Georges and incredibly he produced arguably his most impressive performance to date at that point. His jumping was assured throughout and he didn't come off the bridle in scoring by 36 lengths. A truly magnificent display.
13) Cheltenham Gold Cup, March 19, 2010
Kauto Star went off at odds-on to win a third Gold Cup but there were gasps from the stands when he took a crashing fall four fences from home when beaten, having not been his usual fluent self from flag-fall. Thankfully the great horse was soon up on his feet and no harm was done.
14) JNwine.com Champion Chase, Down Royal, November 6, 2010
With questions to answer after his Gold Cup fall, Kauto Star travelled to Ireland for a second run in the Down Royal feature. Among the opposition was the top-class Sizing Europe, having his first try at three miles, and the well-regarded China Rock. Kauto momentarily looked like he would have a race on his hands, but in the end was a comfortable four-length winner from Sizing Europe.
15) King George VI Chase, Kempton, January 15, 2011
Again odds-on in chasing a staggering fifth King George, this was the day it looked like Father Time had caught up with Kauto Star as young pretender Long Run came of age. Having gone second he made a terrible blunder at the second-last, with Tony McCoy doing superbly to keep the partnership intact. The game was up from there, however, but even at the time he had looked likely to be beaten. In the end he was third, with Riverside Theatre second.
16) Cheltenham Gold Cup, March 18, 2011
Nothing odds-on about Kauto this time for his fifth run in the Gold Cup, and his sixth at the Festival, but there was almost just as much glory in defeat as there had been in victory. Always travelling well with old friend Denman, the Nicholls pair were full of running at the top of the hill. But younger legs would again seize the day as Long Run stayed on relentlessly. Kauto was a gallant third, with Denman second.
17) Guinness Gold Cup, Punchestown, May 4, 2011
The run that sparked calls in some quarters to call time on Kauto Star's career as a laboured performance in the big race of the Punchestown Festival saw him eventually eased and pulled up four from home. Connections were keen to stress no snap decisions on his future would be made, and that a view would be taken after his summer break.
18) Betfair Chase, Haydock, November 19, 2011
With his career hanging in the balance, Nicholls openly admitted he had Kauto Star as fit as he could possibly get him, for what would be his Gold Cup in terms of whether he raced on or not. Right from the word go, he bounced along like a horse half his age, and with Walsh getting a sufficient breather into him, he had plenty left to ping the last and readily see off Long Run. Rarely has there been a reception of the like for a winner outside of Cheltenham.
19) King George VI Chase, Kempton, December 26, 2011
Many expected Long Run to improve past Kauto Star in Boxing Day showpiece, but the old master once again proved he should never be written off. With the successful positive tactics used at Haydock once again applied, he produced some sensational leaps to leave each of his opponents hard at work. Long Run deserves a degree of credit for keeping on in the straight to take a clear second, markedly reducing the gap from Haydock, but it would once again be the magnificent Kauto Star's day, and with a performance perhaps as good as he has ever produced.