Kauto Star, the outstanding chaser who won two Gold Cups at the Cheltenham Festival, has been retired.
The 12-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by Clive Smith, bows out as one of the greatest horses in the history of National Hunt racing.
Kauto Star had been under consideration for another season of racing, but time has now been called on his career.
Smith told Press Association Sport: “It’s always been in the back of my mind this summer that we should retire him and I’m pleased that now we have made a final decision.”
Kauto Star won 16 Grade One races during a magnificent career.
Although he became the first horse to reclaim the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2009, having firstly taken the blue riband of jumps racing in 2007, the esteemed chaser will also be fondly remembered for his startling five victories in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
He made history in December 2009 when becoming the first horse to win four consecutive renewals of the King George, but even better was to come last season.
Many believed retirement beckoned when he was pulled up in the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup last May, but Kauto Star stunned the doubters with a fourth triumph on his comeback in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last November, in which he defeated Long Run, the 2011 Gold Cup hero, by eight lengths.
Nicholls and Smith then sent him back to Kempton for the King George on Boxing Day, when he produced arguably his greatest performance with an easy length-and-a-quarter defeat of old rival Long Run.
However, Kauto Star’s preparations for the 2012 Gold Cup suffered a major blow in late February after Nicholls revealed he had taken “a pretty awful fall” during a schooling session.
Connections eventually gave him the go-ahead to compete in the race, but Ruby Walsh’s partner was pulled up with a circuit remaining.
History will still treat Kauto Star extremely kindly, and he will be remembered as being by far the best chaser of his generation.
Smith said: “We could have retired him a year ago.
“A lot of people said then he should be retired, but he came back with those terrific two wins.
“Then he had the schooling accident at home and, obviously, wasn’t able to show his best in the Gold Cup.
“We thought about whether we wanted him to go out like that and we gave him the summer off in the paddock as normal and decided we’d give him two months training to see how he would react.
“That brought us to the end of October, where we are now, and the decision has been made to call it a day.”
Other keynote triumphs included two wins in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, and two successes in the Champion Chase at Down Royal.
The French-bred son of Village Star made his British debut at Newbury in December 2004, when victorious in a novice chase.
Instantly recognisable due to his striking white face, he was never out of the first three when completing a race, and was rated as highly as 193 in his pomp.
“He’s had a fantastic career and it’s great that he’s been able to retire safe and sound,” said Smith.
“It’s been lovely to have him, I’ve been very lucky to have had him.
“It’s very difficult to pick out highlights as he’s won 16 Grade Ones and every one of them has been a real delight.
“His comeback in the Betfair Chase last year was a bit special. It was such an exciting day, he got such a great reception from the crowd.
“Then he went and won a fifth King George and you are getting to the stage where it is beyond belief.
“But it is very hard to look past Gold Cups. He won two and you can’t get away from that.
“I’ve spoken to a few people about what he’ll do in the future, but for now he’ll stay at Paul’s yard.
“I think he’ll go to Kempton to parade on Boxing Day.”
Walsh won 17 races aboard Nicholls’ inmate – including his Gold Cup triumphs and his five victories in the King George.
He said: “He’s the horse of my lifetime. I’m very lucky to be the one who got to ride him.
“He had a few knocks and a few setbacks but he was always an exceptional horse and a tough horse.
“He came back from hard races and heavy falls. He just kept coming back and getting back up to Grade One level again.”
Perennial champion jockey Tony McCoy partnered Kauto Star just once, but told Racing UK: “He’s the best horse that I’ve seen.
“He’s been unbelievably well handled by Paul Nicholls.
“It’s great he’s going out in one piece – he was an exceptional chaser.”
Bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley was the man responsible for bringing Kauto Star over from France in 2004.
He said: “He always knew he was a good horse. He never lost that and knew he was better than everything else.”
Mick Fitzgerald also rode Kauto Star just once but was lucky enough to be aboard when he won his first Grade One in the 2005 Tingle Creek.
He said: “To win two Tingle Creeks, two Gold Cups and five King Georges says everything you need to know.”
Jockey Sam Thomas, who won the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Denman, steered Kauto Star to glory in the 2007 Betfair Chase at Haydock.
He said: “I think Kauto’s record will struggle to be beaten in my generation and now he’s retired, along with Denman, it’s the end of an era.”
The British Horseracing Authority also paid tribute to the French-bred chaser.
A statement read: “BHA salutes the retirement of the great Kauto Star, the horse of a lifetime.
“Kauto achieved the highest BHA rating in 13 years of the Anglo-Irish classifications with his 190 in the King George VI Chase in 2009.”
Kempton clerk of the course Barney Clifford said Kauto Star’s achievements at the Sunbury circuit will never be forgotten.
“He was really important to the development of Kempton Park in 2006,” said Clifford.
“Kauto Star is just the most fabulous racehorse and everyone at our racecourse who has witnessed his feats in the King George over the years feels privileged to have been here to be part of history.
“We’ve been very lucky to have a horse of his calibre return year after year to win all those Grade One races.”
As for plans to commemorate the horse’s feats, Clifford said: “These conversations are ongoing and have been for a couple of years.
“There will be further discussions as to how we will pay tribute to Kauto Star at Kempton.”
Robert Waley-Cohen is chairman at Cheltenham, as well as being the owner of Long Run, winner of the Gold Cup in 2011 and twice beaten by Kauto Star in last season’s Betfair Chase and King George.
He said: “Kauto Star has been an outstanding racehorse and indisputably the greatest steeplechaser for close on the last 50 years.
“He’s been tremendously versatile and very talented.
“I wish him a very happy retirement.”