The demise of Kauto Star last week with the horse having jumped hundreds of fences and galloped many, many miles on the racecourse in Britain, Northern Ireland and his native France sadly emphasised that equines meet with accidents in paddocks and stables – not only while racing.
A super star of steeplechasing, Kauto Star was retired from racing to pursue a dressage career by his owner and was in action last Christmas at the Horse Of The Year.
Even the very best veterinary care could not overcome the extensive injuries sustained by the former champion resulting in the decision to euthanize the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, winner of the crown in 2007 and againin 2009.
Kauto Star also twice won the Grade 1 Nicholson Chase at Down Royal in 2008 and 2010 and during his career won a total of 23 races amassing almost £2.5 million in prize money.
Owner Clive Smith and trainer Paul Nicholls never resolved their differences after Kauto Star was retired. However, tributes flowed after learning the death of the great horse.
Regular rider Ruby Walsh, who partnered the horse to win 17 of his 19 victories including the two Gold Cups and an amazing five King George VI victories, said: “He had some hard races and took some heavy falls and kept coming back. He was a true heavyweight and it was a pleasure to be associated with him. I am too young to remember Arkle and it is very unfair to compare horses from different eras.
“To me in his era he was the best. He had the longevity and he won the most races and it is some feat to turn up and win any race five times, let alone a Grade One King George.”
He added: “He was a wonderful horse to ride and he gave me some of the best days I’ll ever have as a jockey. He was without a doubt the best chaser I’ve ever ridden - a horse in a lifetime. I’ll never ride one as good as him again.”
Recently retired 20 times Champion Jump jockey Tony McCoy said: “It is very sad news. He was the greatest steeplechaser of the modern era. The record proves that. Winning five King Georges and two Gold Cups and winning the Tingle Creek over two miles is an amazing feat.
“He had what a lot of those great racehorses have and those great sportsmen have - a great will to win and a great heart. He was unbelievably tough as well. He became a household name and even though he was retired, they become your friends, near on being a pet.
“It’s very tough for everyone that’s been involved with him and it’s sad for racing as he was a great ambassador for the sport and the sport needs horses like him. He showed the sport to its very best.”
Former trainer Paul Nicholls revealed he only learned of Kauto Star’s injuries and euthanisation on Tuesday of last week.
“Laura Collett [dressage rider of Kauto Star] kindly called me before there was a press release. That’s the first I knew about it, although I understand the accident happened nearly a week ago,” he explained.
“It’s obviously a very sad day and very sad news to take on board. I’m obviously mortified. 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 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.”
He added: “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.”