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Kauto Star – A Legend Of Our Sport

The Great Kauto Star

The Great Kauto Star

News broke yesterday of the sad loss of Kauto Star after a freak accident in the field.

His rider Laura Collett said: “I’m devastated to announce Kauto Star sustained injury in the field, and with his best interest at heart a decision was made to put him to sleep. It's just horrendous. He was out in the same field he was out in every day. We don't really know what happened, but he injured his neck and pelvis.”

Owner Clive Smith told BBC Radio 5 live: “It is really devastating - he was looking fit and well at Laura Collett's yard. The main injury was to the neck, as it gets worse it attacks the spinal cord. He also fractured his pelvic bone. The vets made him comfortable but the kindest thing was to euthanize him. It was a horrible moment. He was such a wonderful horse, but he did not suffer.”

Smith reflected on Kauto’s amazing career, saying: “He's been a fantastic horse and when you think back about how brave he was, he had the heart of a lion. He was so brave, he had everything really. He was the complete racehorse. I have so many great memories; after all he won 16 Grade 1 chases. He was an absolutely incredible horse with a lot of speed, winning over two miles in Tingle Creeks, then right up to the Gold Cups, which he needed a lot of stamina for. He had a beautiful nature and he will be sadly missed by a lot more people than you could ever imagine."

His trainer through those glorious years was Ditcheat handler Paul Nicholls. He spoke of the loss: “It's obviously a very sad day and very sad news to take on board. I'm obviously mortified. I saw him every day and he was a great horse in every way. When he left, it was obviously a big hole we had to fill in everybody's lives. He'd been so good for racing and so good for everybody. When something like this happens it's awfully sad, but sometimes things are unavoidable.”

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Nicholls went on to speak of the latter years when many thought Kauto’s ability to be waning: “Even after he was written off, to come back and win his fourth Betfair Chase and a fifth King George said everything about him. He was just an amazing horse. Winning the Gold Cup was brilliant, but the two days that really stand out for me are the day at Haydock and the day at Kempton.”

The master of Ditcheat believes his pride and joy may have won a third Cheltenham Gold Cup in his final year had his preparation been smoother. “We never stopped learning about him and I think we had him at his best in the very last year he ran,” said Nicholls. “It was such a tragedy that he fell schooling before going to try to win a third Gold Cup as he was probably in the form of his life. That wasn't to be. He lived on the edge a little; he was one of those sorts of horses.”

Many have paid tribute to the wonderful horse. Robert Waley-Cohen, the owner of Long Run, one of Kauto Star's great rivals, described him as “the outstanding horse of our time”. He said: “His record speaks for itself. He was astonishingly versatile, sound and not short of talent. He was the outstanding horse of our time. For me his most outstanding performances were when he came back to win the Betfair Chase and King George in his final season having looked like he had gone off the boil. The team down at Ditcheat did a great job to bring him back for those wins.”

Ruby Walsh was fortunate to be on-board for many of those great occasions in Britain and in Ireland, and believes he should go down as one of the greatest National Hunt horses of all time. He said in his Paddy Power blog: “Kauto Star was a superstar and it’s a real shame that his life off the track has been cut short. He was a wonderful horse to ride and he gave me some of the best days I’ll ever have as a jockey. He was without a doubt the best chaser I’ve ever ridden – a horse in a lifetime. I’ll never ride one as good as him again. How could you? Just look at his record.”

That record was indeed hard to comprehend. In the 2006/07 season Kauto opened by winning the Old Roan Chase at Aintree before victory in the Betfair Chase over three miles at Haydock. He followed that with a thumping success in the Tingle Creek at Sandown when dropped back to two miles. He then stepped up to win the King George at Kempton before winning a thriller in the Aon Chase at Newbury. A month later he completed a sensational season with victory in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Kauto became very much the ‘Peoples Champion’. Longevity at the very top of the sport aided his rise in popularity. But not only was Kauto a class apart, he had the guts to match. He was a horse that answered every call, and those lucky enough to witness that famous win at Haydock in 2011 will never forget the outpouring of emotion that greeted him in the winner’s enclosure.

Kauto was the horse of a generation; the greatest chaser of the modern era; a superstar of the sport. To those who were closest to the Great Champion; Clive Smith, Laura Collett, Paul Nicholls and Clifford Baker, we send our wholehearted sympathies.

Brian Hughes – A Potential Champion Jockey

 

Brian Hughes-The Festival 2014

Brian Hughes-The Festival 2014

This Saturday at Sandown the greatest jump jockey Tony McCoy will retire from the sport. It’s hard to imagine National Hunt racing without the ‘Champ’, but his farewell will initiate the first truly competitive race for the rider’s crown for many years.

A look at the current standings shows just how close the title chase is likely to be. Tom Scudamore, Richard Johnson and Sam Twiston-Davies are all within four winners of each other, and there’s no reason to believe that next season the race will be any different. Riding for David Pipe, Philip Hobbs and Paul Nicholls respectively, the three are sure to have the firepower to make a concerted challenge to become the first champion jockey other than AP since Richard Dunwoody in the 94/95 season.

Currently some 40 winners adrift of the ‘big three’ is the dominant jockey in the North, 29-year-old Yorkshire based Brian Hughes. Those involved in the sport are quickly catching on to the fact that Hughes is a terrific horseman, and his talent has ensured he picks-up rides for a multitude of trainers. Malcolm Jefferson may be the supplier of the bulk of Hughes’ rides but he also regularly gets the leg-up for John Wade, Jimmy Moffatt, Kevin Ryan, Richard Fahey and Dianne Sayer, just to name a few.

Yesterday’s treble at Hexham was the perfect example of a Brian Hughes day at the races, when he rode winners for three separate trainers in Malcolm Jefferson, Peter Croke and Patrick Griffin. Two of those came over from Ireland and they were the kind of spare rides that Hughes continues to pick up on a regular basis.

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Without good horses the jockey is fully aware that he would not be in a position to compete at the highest level. Interviewed earlier in the season Hughes commented: “There is still a difference between being a good Northern jockey and someone going to meetings like Cheltenham with good chances. A jockey is only as good as the horses that he rides and there are a lot of lads who are unable to get the rides. I am lucky. I am riding for good owners and am able to get on horses that are able to win. “

The man from Thirsk has also developed an association with owners Camilla and Tim Radford and has ridden some of their string that are in training with Mick Channon, the Lambourn based former footballer. Two victories on promising novice chasers Sgt Reckless and Warden Hill, have come in the past few weeks. He also gave the wonderful Somersby a mighty ride in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, when only just denied a famous victory by Dodging Bullets.

This continued developing network of contacts can only enhance Hughes’ title aspirations and indeed make it a realistic possibility. Riding for many owners and trainers along with a phenomenal desire for success is the very blueprint that has rendered AP McCoy unbeatable for almost two decades.

A trip to the races with his Grandfather to watch an uncle ride over hurdles at Dundalk, may well have been the spark for a youngster many years ago. He graduated from Irelands Racing Academy in 2002, before spending three years with Kevin Prendergast on the flat. Like so many, weight issues forced him to take to jumps and in 2008 he became Champion Conditional in England.

Winning the Topham Chase on Always Waining in 2010 remains one of his favourite rides to date. His first Festival winner came in 2014 when Hawk High won the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle. And an old alliance with Mr Prendergast brought a big winner in Ireland this winter, when Katie T won the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.

Another horse he’ll be looking forward to getting back on board is Cyrus Darius for Malcolm Jefferson. He stormed to a wide-margin victory at the Grand National meeting in the Grade 2 Top Novices’ Hurdle. A huge chaser in the making, he looks set to become the new stable star and could be dominant in the North over fences next autumn.

As AP steps aside a yawning gap will be left, and just who fills that gap will undoubtedly become one of the major stories of next season. Brian Hughes looks sure to be one of the leading contenders.

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The Imperial Cup – Pipe Targets Huge Bonus

David Pipe

Pipe - Imperial Cup King

Tomorrow is the turn of Sandown to take centre-stage, with the running of the William Hill Imperial Cup. A Grade 3 handicap hurdle run over two miles, it was first contested in 1907 and is one of the most prestigious hurdle races of the season.

Always a popular and highly competitive race, it is run on the Saturday before the Cheltenham Festival. Connections have an added incentive of a huge financial bonus of £100,000 should he or she go on to win any race at the Festival. Gaspara was the last to do so when she went on to win the Fred Winter at Prestbury Park. She was trained by David Pipe, and both he and his father before him have a terrific record in the race.

The Pipe team have won this four times in the last 10 years, including last March when Baltimore Rock was successful. When looking for a prospective winner punters should note the poor record of horses high in the handicap. Indeed the last to win carrying more than 11 stone was Korelo, yet another Pipe horse, back in 2003. Younger improving types have a great record in the race with horses aged four, five or six having won all bar two renewals since 2001.

Saturday’s showpiece will be run on soft ground with David Pipe’s four-year-old Bidourey currently the race favourite.  Undefeated in five career starts, the French gelding was an emphatic winner of a novice hurdle at Sandown on his last start. In truth he’s beaten nothing of any quality to date and this will be by far his toughest test. But he’s a lovely big scopey horse who is very well bred being a son of Voix Du Nord out of a Mansonnien mare. He looks a horse for the future, and whether a race of this nature is coming along too soon, time will tell.

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Paul Nicholls hopes to collect yet another big Saturday pot and sends Calipto in to battle just three weeks after finishing fourth in the Betfair Hurdle. That looked a decent performance having had four months off the track, but he’ll need to have improved considerably to win this. He stayed on steadily at Newbury with many of the opinion that a step up in trip would be favourable. Sandown’s stiffer finish is sure to suit and he will strip fitter, but whether he can improve enough is questionable.

The top-weight is another from France who brings some terrific form over the Channel. Camping Ground will have his work cut out to win off his lofty mark, with the aforementioned history very much against him. But he does look a classy sort and his UK debut at Warwick over fences was impressive. He does have entries at Cheltenham over the larger obstacles and this looks a decent prep-run with one eye on the bonus prize and one on winning at the Festival.

Arzal is likely to be a popular choice with punters. Harry Whittington’s five-year-old has impressed this winter and ran a belter in the Betfair Hurdle having had nothing but bad luck in running. Claimer Paul O’Brien again takes the ride and a valuable 7lbs off the back of his mount. He looks capable of another huge run.

West Wizard was seven lengths behind Arzal when they met back in November. Henderson’s highly touted gelding has proved frustrating and somewhat disappointing to date, though he has been beaten by several decent sorts, including Jonjo’s impressive novice Minella Rocco last time at Kempton. He’s handicapped to get much closer to Arzal this time round and has Barry Geraghty in the plate. A strong traveller and clearly talented he should go close, though he’s becoming hard to trust.

Of the remainder Some Buckle trained by Tom George and ridden by Paddy Brennan looks sure to go close. He’ll be dropping back in trip having run well in the Neptune trial at Cheltenham in January. Prior to that he only just failed to beat Glingerburn at Doncaster and he was last seen giving 9lbs and a beating to Bristol De Mai. That form looks as strong as anything here and odds of 14/1 look pretty generous.

Whoever takes the pot is likely to find they are travelling to the Cotswolds early next week in the hope of a very profitable quick-fire double.

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