Tuesday 25 October 2016

star's sad end in many ways

The more you read about Kauto Star's untimely death this week the more disappointing it gets. Context shouldn't be lost on this issue.

There are far sadder things happening around the world on a daily basis and Ireland has had plenty of grief on its own doorstep in the last week which is way beyond the loss of a former racehorse. That said, you cannot underestimate the affection horses can bring out in people. Especially those who work with them on a daily basis.


So much of the Kauto Star story this week has had an unwanted edge to it.

Paul Nicholls was clearly disappointed not to have been made aware of Kauto Star's life-threatening and subsequently life-ending injuries until minutes before the general public were to be told the horse had been put down.

The fall-out from owner Clive Smith's decision to rehome Kauto Star after his retirement from racing and have him be retrained in the very different discipline of dressage created plenty of stir at the time. Most of the racing public would have appreciated the gesture to leave Kauto Star at Nicholls' Ditcheat base where he had enjoyed the best years of his life. But Clive Smith was the owner and Clive Smith paid the bills.

He was well and truly entitled to do what he wished with the horse at any stage and there was no other way about it.

It still seems unclear as to what exactly Kauto Star did to suffer the shocking injuries that would lead to his death and the suggestion has been made that he tried to jump out of the paddock and failed, falling backwards in the process.

And it is unlikely that we'll ever know what happened to this horse of a lifetime, the horse who gave those who only ever heard of Arkle the chance to witness similar equine greatness.

Sadly, though, Clive Smith seems to have long forgotten the people that made Kauto Star. A horse with such natural talent would undoubtedly have been a success in the hands of most trainers, but in the hands of Paul Nicholls he became a legend.

He became the best since Arkle and there are few men who could have achieved what Nicholls did with Kauto Star.


It was a sensational training performance. He won two Gold Cups, becoming the first horse to regain it having lost it, he won five King George's which no horse has ever achieved and in an outstanding career he won his owner over €3m, not to mention a £1m bonus he got from Betfair one year.

The fact that Clive Smith couldn't bury whatever differences he had with Nicholls for the sake of one phone call so that Nicholls and Clifford Baker, the man who rode him almost every day at home and provided incredibe feedback for his success on a daily basis, could go and wish him well in his final stages, is, in my opinion, appalling as without those two men we wouldn't have had the Kauto Star that we just spent a week celebrating and mourning.

For some, a horse that is no world-beater can be a champion in their eyes and even that horse can feel part of the family of those who look after it, but in this case we are dealing with an undoubted champion and Kauto Star made a huge difference to the life of Smith, Nicholls and co and surely it was only right they all got to say their goodbyes.

Instead, Smith was quoted as saying: "We didn't have any responsibility to Paul Nicholls at all."

I'll let you make your own mind up.

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