Thursday, December 23, 2010

King Kauto

Camberley Heath Golf Club is located about 40 miles west of London, the hundred year old course is said to be as challenging as it is visually stunning. Clive Smith, better known as the owner of Kauto Star, was a captain of Camberley Heath and it was from there that he drew the inspiration for the purple, green and yellow colours that Kauto Star races in. The distinct colours represent the sprinkling of heather and pine on the golf course.

Smith, 59, is a racehorse owner for over twenty years. He set out to acquire a top class chaser in 2004 and his original target had been Garde Champetre. He bid some €560,000 for this horse but JP McManus topped Smith’s offer by €60,000 and in doing so, set a record for the most expensive national hunt ever purchased. Through his bloodstock agent, Anthony Bromley (who is also responsible for the procurement of Binocular, Albertas Run and Celestial Halo) Smith parted with €400,000 for Kauto Star, following a recommendation from Paul Nicholls who saw clips of the horse running in Auteuil where he was a Grade Three winner over hurdles.

In France, Kauto Star was a precocious, prodigious talent, known fondly as 'L'Extraterrestre' ('The Extraterrestrial') predominantly for his otherworldly ability; he has since become the outstanding staying chaser of his generation. Twice a winner of the Tingle Creek, Champion Chase, Gold Cup and a three-time winner of the Betfair Chase, he is seeking an unprecedented five-timer in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Over the past six seasons, he has run in 25 races, winning 17 of these (a 68% strike rate) and placed second in 5, he has fallen twice and unseated just once. In 2007 his owner collected a £1 million bonus following a promotion by the Betting Exchange Betfair, who offered the prize money to the connections of the winner of the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup. Kauto Star claimed all three at his ease and the Betfair Million scheme was dropped a year later.

Smith’s costly investment has paid considerable dividends. When Kauto Star topped the Order Of Merit in 2007, (an initiative designed to reward horseracing excellence and participation) his owner collected £200,000 from the British Horseracing Authority. Since then he has progressed further and become the first National Hunt horse in history to win over £2m in prize money.

Kauto Star is the highest rated national hunt horse throughout the past fifty years. Timeform have allocated the ten year old gelding with a rating of 191, alongside Mill House, this is the third highest rating of all time Only Flyingbolt (210) and the peerless Arkle (212) surpass him.

On St .Stephen’s Day, despite the arctic weather conditions, the organisers of Kempton Racecourse are expecting a crowd of 20,000 to witness Kauto Star write himself into the history books. In doing so he aims to beat Desert Orchid’s joint record of four wins in the race. In all likelihood it will be his penultimate start, only the Gold Cup remains as his solitary target after St. Stephen’s Day.

Reports from many quarters believe that Kauto Star is simply too old to win another Gold Cup. This was substantiated amid reports around Cheltenham this year that no 10 or 11 year old horse has ever won the Gold Cup. This is untrue, on no less than eighteen occasions have horses between the ages of 10 and 12 won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, notably Desert Orchid (10), Cool Dawn (10 & 11) and Silver Fame (12).

Notwithstanding, plenty around this age bracket have also won the King George. Desert Orchid won the race as both a 10 and 11 year old, Wayward Lad (10) and Edredon Bleu (11) further bolster the claims of Kauto Star.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has yet to report signs of decline in the gelding. His jockey for the King George, freshly-crowned and BBC Sports Personality of the year, Tony McCoy noted before his recent run at Down Royal that “Kauto Star is as good a horse as I have ever seen”. Coming from a 15-times Champion jockey who won a King George on Best Mate, who also won three Gold Cups, this is the highest endorsement that can be bestowed.

Kauto Star has a compelling style over fences, his jumping has improved year on year and it culminated in a staggering performance in the King George. Winning by 36 lengths, Kauto was imperious and set a new record in the race, breaking Arkle's 44 year old record of 30 lengths.

At a recent press day at Manor Farm stables, Kauto Star faced the reporters and cameras coolly, comfortably, like the professional he is. Adorned in a warm blue blanket blazoned with the words ““I Will Make History” he looked every inch a champion. Making history for Kauto Star is second nature, he is already the first horse in history to win a Gold Cup, lose the title and then reclaim it.

Will he become the first horse to win five King George’s?

Without a doubt, remember he is not of this world and so he makes his own path among the stars.

Kauto Star Facts:
Foaled: 19 March, 2000
Breeding: Village Star (FR) - Kauto Relka (FR) (Port Etienne (FR))
Breeder: Mme H Aubert
Owner: Mr Clive D Smith
Trainer: P F Nicholls
Career placings: 21/11F2353/112/21F/111111/211122/1U11-11F-1
Prize Money to date: 2.45 million Euros (excluding a £1 million Betfair bonus and £200,000 order of merit prize)

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