Nicholls retires Kauto the great before star has chance to wane

 

For Kauto Star to be retired yesterday, just 11 days after another paragon, should prompt due circumspection in assessing his own place in the Turf pantheon. Certainly, those who glibly saluted Frankel as "the greatest ever" on the Flat will surely feel abashed in according Kauto Star equivalent status in the history of steeplechasing, even with the customary rider "since Arkle". The sport incorrigibly anoints its latest champion as the best. In at least one respect, however, Kauto Star's career can be soberly acclaimed as an enduring benchmark – and "enduring" is very much the word.

Nobody was surprised that Paul Nicholls and Clive Smith, his trainer and owner respectively, have agreed not to persevere with Kauto Star as he approaches his 13th birthday. But it is precisely his longevity that sets the horse apart, above all in registering that staggering fifth success in the King George VI Chase last Christmas. He won 16 Grade One prizes in all, albeit his final appearance in March proved an anticlimax, pulled up by halfway as he sought a third Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Kauto Star could be a spectacular jumper, especially when Ruby Walsh made up his mind for him, but had been lucky to recover from a crashing fall in the 2010 Gold Cup. Many then began to fear that connections were pushing their luck, as he plodded into podium finishes at Cheltenham and Kempton behind a new champion, Long Run. Nicholls was duly ecstatic, then, over a comeback that triggered joyous scenes at Haydock last November.

"His 2009 King George was breathtaking, but the raw emotion at Haydock will live longest in my memory," Nicholls said yesterday. "I had to hold myself together to stop myself being in floods of tears that day." Walsh paid tribute to his resilience. "He came back from hard races and heavy falls," the horse's regular rider said. "He just kept coming back, and getting back up to Grade One level again. He was a wonderful horse to have in your life."

Though the door had been left ajar to another King George, yesterday's decision was widely received with relief and gratitude. "Sometimes you have to listen to your head and your heart, and both told me retirement was the only option," Nicholls explained in his Betfair blog. "You are a long time retired, particularly if you are as exuberant, intelligent and inquisitive as this great horse. But, knowing Kauto, he would be coming back in at the age of 14 still looking and working brilliantly, and giving us that burning question to answer. Delaying would probably have been just selfishness and stubbornness on my part – the equivalent of a football manager desperately clinging on to his best, if ageing player."

Nicholls was always somewhat defensive of Kauto Star's reputation, understandably so when you consider the way he contributed to the trainer's own rise – and measured his mastery. "Kauto is signing off in full health and after a season in which he proved so many people wrong," Nicholls stressed. "He looks and feels as vibrant as ever. But deep down we know he has done enough, and in some ways I think we have to protect him from himself.

"Kauto is a public horse, every bit as much as Desert Orchid, and that had to be a factor in the decision. And while it would have been brilliant to go out on a high, I don't think anyone at Cheltenham last March would view his final appearance as a failure. The spontaneous applause from the crowd genuinely lifted the spirits of all the team here. Disappointment was immediately replaced by pride – and that is the overwhelming emotion I feel when looking at the horse."

Stellar overdrive: Kauto Star's world record 16 Grade One wins

1. Tingle Creek Chase Sandown 2m, 3.12.05: by 1.5 lengths

2. Betfair Chase Haydock 3m, 18.11.06: by 17 lengths

3. Tingle Creek Chase Sandown 2m, 2.12.06: by 7 lengths

4. King George VI Chase Kempton 3m, 26.12.06: by 8 lengths (from Exotic Dancer)

5. Gold Cup Cheltenham 3m 2f, 16.3.07: by 2.5 lengths (from Exotic Dancer)

6. Betfair Chase Haydock 3m, 24.11.07: by 0.5 length

7. King George VI Chase Kempton 3m, 26.12.07: by 11 lengths (from Our Vic)

8. Ascot Chase 2m5f, 16.2.08: by 8 lengths

9. Champion Chase Down Royal 3m, 1.11.08: by 11 lengths

10. King George VI Chase Kempton 3m, 26.12.08: by 8 lengths (from Albertas Run)

11. Gold Cup Cheltenham 3m 2f, 13.03.09: by 13 lengths (from Denman)

12. Betfair Chase Haydock 3m, 21.11.09: by a nose

13. King George VI Chase Kempton 3m, 26.12.09: by 36 lengths (from Madison Du Berlais)

14. Champion Chase Down Royal 3m, 6.11.10: by 4 lengths

15. Betfair Chase Haydock 3m, 19.11.11: by 8 lengths

16. King George VI Chase Kempton 3m: by 1.25 lengths (from Long Run)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future