Absolutely awful news to report that the legendary two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star has been put down after injuring himself in a paddock fall.
It was reported that the 15 year old sustained a complex fracture to the left side of his pelvis as the result of a fall.
He was subsequently treated for his injuries at the Valley Equine Hospital in Upper Lambourn but was put down at 3pm on Monday, in the presence of owner Clive Smith and veterinary assistant Hattie Lawrence.
Smith was quoted on the Racingpost.com: “I am devastated. He had been turned out in Laura’s paddock, as has been done normally with him at this time for years, and he looks to have jumped something, and stumbled, we’re not really sure, but he injured himself – and it became obvious it was serious.
“The vets made him comfortable but it became evident that it was serious, and the kindest thing was to euthanise him. It was a horrible moment. He was such a wonderful horse, but he did not suffer.”
The superstar chaser won 23 of his 41 races, including winning the King George five times and Cheltenham Gold Cup twice in a glittering career whilst trained by Paul Nicholls.
The trainer said: “I was mortified. It’s an extremely sad day. He was such a big part of everyone’s life here at Ditcheat.
“Laura [Collett] kindly rang me just before the press release went out. I was a bit confused as I thought he’d had an accident last night but actually it happened a week ago and they’ve been trying to save him since.
“He had a catastrophic injury and complications set in and he had to be put down.
“In hindsight I just wish someone had informed me as Clifford [Baker – head lad] and I could have gone and said farewell to him, but that didn’t happen and I found out a minute before everyone else did and was mortified it happened.
“He was such a good horse but as with all horses we know there’s a risk and sometimes these things are unavoidable, it’s just a very very sad day.”
Paying tribute to Kauto Star’s career Nicholls added: “He was the champion of all champions really, and I was very lucky to have him in a golden era. I’m just looking at his box right now and he’s got all those plaques from his 16 Grade 1s, from Tingle Creeks all the way through to Gold Cups and King Georges, he was just the horse of a lifetime.
“When he left it was a big hole we had to fill in everyone’s lives. He’d been so good for racing, so good for everybody, when something like this happens it’s awfully sad. It hasn’t really sunk in my phone’s been mad and I’ve been trying to speak to everyone who was involved with him during his time here and everyone’s so upset. It’s a difficult time.”
Speaking on At The Races, Nicholls continued: “When he won the fifth one [King George] at the end it was just one of the best days you could ever have in racing, I’ll never better that, it was just awesome.
“He was at the twilight of his career and he’d been written off having run ordinarily at Cheltenham and Punchestownin the spring and then he came back and won a fourth Betfair Chase and a fifth King George. They are days I will never forget.
“He had a few times when he wasn’t as good but we never stopped learning about him and we probably had him at his very best in his final year. It was such a tragedy he fell schooling just before his fifth Gold Cup as he was in the form of his life, but it wasn’t to be.
“Anthony Bromley was confident he was a decent horse, he had some good form over hurdles in France and was always going to make a chaser, but from day one he was absolute class. His jumping was a little indifferent at the start, but he had tons of class.”
He first came to prominence as a 5 year old and was favourite for the 2005 Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham, but missed the race after suffering a fracture. The following autumn he returned as good as ever and landed the first of two Tingle Creek Chases at Sandown Park, before falling in the Queen Mother Champion Chase the following March.
But it was over 3 miles that Kauto Star really made his mark, proving he stayed with an imperious display in the 2006 Betfair Chase before dominating his rivals in his first King George victory, marked with what became a customary last-fence blunder.
Four more King George VI Chases fell to Kauto Star, his final victory coming in 2011 in glorious fashion as he outpointed the new Gold Cup hero Long Run, both at Haydock Park and then Kempton Park, on his way to a final tally of 16 Grade 1 victories over 8 years.
The term legend is liberally used but in the case of Kauto Star it is truly apt. After retiring from racing Kauto Star was sent to Laura Collett and trained in the discipline of dressage. His loss at such a young age will hurt the whole of racing as he was seen as a flag bearer for the Retraining of Racehorses initiative and draw admiration and crowds on his racecourse parades, notably at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
But it is the memory of his sheer bloody mindedness in the race, his spring-heeled leaps, his last fence blunders and that characteristic image of him galloping away from rivals with his head held high and his ears pricked that will last long in the memory.