Kauto Star: ‘A once in a lifetime’ horse says Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls hailed Kauto Star a “once in a lifetime” horse after the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner had to be put down due to injuries sustained in a paddock accident.

Kauto Star: ‘A once in a lifetime’ horse says Paul Nicholls

The 15-year-old enjoyed a glittering career with the champion trainer after being bought from France as a four-year-old, most notably winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton five times and becoming the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He retired from racing after pulling up in the 2012 renewal of the blue riband having won 23 of his 41 races and over £2.3million in win and place prize-money.

Later that year Kauto Star went on to pursue a career in dressage with Laura Collett, a decision which led to a breakdown in relations between Nicholls and owner Clive Smith.

Nicholls revealed he only learned of Kauto Star’s injuries and euthanisation earlier yesterday.

“Laura Collett kindly called me before there was a press release this morning. That’s the first I knew about it, although I understand the accident happened nearly a week ago,” the champion trainer told Sky Sports News.

“It’s obviously a very sad day and very sad news to take on board. I’m obviously mortified.

“He was like my best mate really. I saw him every day and he was a great horse in every way temperament-wise.

“When he left, it was obviously a big hole we had to fill in everybody’s lives. He’d been so good for racing and so good for everybody.

“When something like this happens it’s awfully sad, but sometimes things are unavoidable.

“It hasn’t really sunk in, to be honest. Everyone is very upset. It’s happened and we’ve all got to get on.

“He was very sharp, not always easy to deal with and he had his own way of doing things, but he was just a brilliant horse and from day one he was always going to be very classy.”

Kauto Star looked as though his best days could be behind him after pulling up in the 2011 Punchestown Gold Cup, but famously roared back later that year to win a fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock and his fifth King George VI Chase, days Nicholls admits were particularly special.

He said: “He won 16 Grade Ones. I’ve been very lucky to have trained some incredible horses, but I’ve always said he’s once in a lifetime. To be able to win from two miles, to two-and-a-half and three miles plus, he was awesome.

“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.

“Winning the Gold Cup was brilliant, but the two days that really stand out for me are the day at Haydock and the day at Kempton.”

The Ditcheat handler believes his pride and joy may have won a third Cheltenham Gold Cup in his final year had his preparation been smoother.

“We never stopped learning about him and I think we had him at his best in the very last year he ran,” said Nicholls.

“It was such a tragedy that he fell schooling before he going to try to win a third Gold Cup as he was probably in the form of his life. That wasn’t to be.

“He lived on the edge a little bit, he was one of those sort of horses.”

Smith explained Kauto Star had suffered what appeared to be a minor injury last week but his condition deteriorated over the weekend.

He said in a statement: “I am devastated. He had been turned out in Laura’s paddock, as has been the case normally with him at this time for years. We are not really sure how he did it, but he injured himself – and it became obvious it was serious.

“The vets at Valley Equine Hospital (in Lambourn) did all they could but it became increasingly apparent the injuries were too serious and that it was in the horse’s interests to be put down.

“The onset of secondary problems, pneumonia and laminitis, as a result of the horse being unable to put his head down and the increase of toxins in his body after standing stationary for so long, highlight the challenges faced when treating serious injuries in horses.

“I have to say Hattie Lawrence and the vets at Valley Equine Hospital did all they could and more. Kauto was kept comfortable throughout and not in pain when the decision to put him down was taken.”

Later speaking to At The Races, Smith hailed his brilliant charge as “the complete racehorse” and explained it was the severity of the injury to his neck which made the decision to put him down inevitable.

He said: “The real injury that has caused the problem is a neck injury, at the base of the neck between C6 and T2 (vertebrae). It affects the spinal chord and in the end, it paralyses through the legs.

“When I saw him yesterday afternoon, he was lying there and I fed him some grass and stroked him and tried to spend the last few minutes with him.

“The decision had to be taken and there was no other course of action to take. Unfortunately he was not able to stand and then he had the pelvic injury.”

Reflecting on his astonishing racing career, Smith went on: “He’s been a fantastic horse and when you think back about how brave he was, he had the heart of a lion.

“He was so brave, he had everything really. He was the complete racehorse.

“I have so many great memories, after all he won 16 Grade One chases.

“He was an absolutely 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 had a beautiful nature and he will sadly missed by a lot more people than you could ever imagine.

“The response I used to get around the racecourses, people used to come and talk about him all the time. He really has been well loved by everybody and I’m sure he’ll continue to be so.

“He just loved the attention, he was a little bit of a show-off.”

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