Synchronised and AP McCoy won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in a thrilling race at Prestbury Park to give owner JP McManus his first victory in the race.
Long Run lost his crown in valiant fashion while former champion Kauto Star was pulled after the third fence when never travelling well. Paul Nicholls was quick to inform Kauto fans on Twitter that the 12 year old was fine.
“It’s lovely to win and its just a pity the great Kauto Star had to be pulled, but it’s lovely for us,” an excited JP said.
Kauto Star at his best may have beaten Jonjo O’Neill’s gelding but he was correctly pulled up by Ruby Walsh who felt the horse wasn’t right.
And so the curtain came down on one of the most distinguished racing careers of the modern era.
Kauto Star exits stage left after seven years at the top that netted two Gold Cups and five King George’s in a 23-wins, 41 race career. But for a simple twist of fate, owner Clive Smith, trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh may never have been associated with the legend.
Smith originally tried to buy Garde Champetre at the sales in France but was outbid by JP McManus. Instead, he turned his attention to Kauto Star and bought him for E400,000. He made his debut as a four-year-old in a novice chase at Newbury beating Foreman by nine lengths in the process. But he was beaten in his next two races at Exeter first time as a 2/11f before winning the Tingle Creek at Sandown. A horrendous fall in the Arkle at Cheltenham in 2006 nearly ended his career. “How his leg wasn’t broken, we’ll never know,” said Clive Smith. A six-race unbeaten run including the 2006 King George and the 2007 Gold Cup confirmed we were in the presence of greatness.
The hype machine went into overdrive for the 2008 Blue Riband when Kauto faced stablemate Denman in a war that will live long in the memory. Denman won out that day but Kauto returned to make history in 2009 by regaining his crown, the first horse ever to do so.
A fall in 2010 set tongues wagging and last year’s defeat by Long Run led many to believe that it was game over for the equine superstar. He was pulled up at Punchestown on his first visit to Ireland. An honourable retirement looked the likely option for the 11-years-old. But then the miracle happened. Buoyed by the form he was showing at home, Nicholls entered him at Haydock for an early season clash of the titans with Long Run. He showed his rivals a clean pair of heels to set up a Boxing Day showdown in the King George. Those who thought his win at Haydock caught an unfit Long Run on the hop were stunned when Kauto ran him ragged again to claim a record fifth win in the Kempton feature.
And while a schooling accident on February 24 left everyone on tenerhooks until last Monday, the gallant Kauto Star took his place in no doubt his final race. While it might not have been the way he wanted to leave the game, he can at least do so with his head held high as one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time.