Kauto Star’s retirement was announced on 31 October this year. Exactly eight weeks later, Kempton will host “The Kauto Star Feltham Novices’ Steeplechase”, a race which bookmakers William Hill have included in their sponsorship of Kempton’s two day Winter Festival. In practice, they will still put up the money for the race, but have simply given up the inclusion of their name in the race name. In time, that may become a permanent change, which would be eminently suitable for a race run over the same course and distance, and on the same day, as the King George VI Chase which Kauto Star won a record breaking five times.
Kate Miller, PR Director for William Hill, said, "This announcement gives us a chance to show our appreciation for the mighty Kauto Star. In discussion with Kempton, we felt that the inclusion of Kauto's name in a prestigious Grade One chase was the most appropriate course of action. The William Hill Winter Festival is now as much a part of Boxing Day as a turkey sandwich, and thanks to Kauto Star it has been a lot more special for the last six seasons. No horse in my lifetime has made more of an impact than Kauto, and it will be an emotional moment when he parades in front of his adoring fans on Boxing Day."
At the same time as this announcement, William Hill confirmed that they would sponsor the Winter Festival for a further three years between 2012 and 2015 with an increase of 15% in prize money. They will also maintain their involvement with three other days in the Kempton jumps calendar; William Hill Jump Sunday (October), William Hill Lanzarote Day (mid January), and the Dovecote Hurdle (February).
Hills want to boost the second day of the Winter Festival so that it stands on a par with the Coral Welsh National, which is run on 27 December. To that end, Miller said, “We want races that punters can get their teeth into, potentially Racing Post Pricewise races. There will be significant prize money increases for the three mile handicap chase and the two mile handicap hurdle.”
It was good news for Kempton, as Chairman Mike Street was quick to acknowledge. He said, “This is great news for Kempton Park and for British racing at a commercially challenging time. Everybody at Kempton and Jockey Club Racecourses are delighted to strengthen the depth and quality of the Jump racing season. Having a single sponsor backing the prestigious two-day Winter Festival will enable a continuous promotion of some of the finest Jump racing staged in England. On behalf of Kempton Park I would like to express our enormous gratitude to William Hill for having the vision to back some of the most important races of the season in such a consistent way.”
Let’s hope it all helps to unearth the great chaser of the new generation to follow in the Kempton footsteps of Kauto Star and Desert Orchid before him.