With the National Hunt season firmly underway this November, today's result from Haydock Park was truly heart-warming. Kauto Star ridden by Ruby Walsh returned to form with a brilliant display of jumping prowess, bravery and determination to win the Grade 1 Betfair Chase by 8 lengths over his nearest rival and last years Gold Cup winner, Long Run.
The many fans and supporters attending Haydock Park wearing the same silk colours of Kauto Star are a clear sign that he's loved by the racing public, perhaps in a once-in-a-lifetime way not seen since Desert Orchid in the late 80's or Arkle of the 60's. There were emotional scenes as the winner returned to the ring to a hero's reception of loud cheers. Uniquely, Kauto Star, now aged 11, has been versatile as a chaser to be champion at different race-distances and the only horse to have ever regained the Cheltenham Gold Cup for owner Clive Smith. In a racing career now spanning over 5 years, he's also won the blue ribbon of the Xmas season, Kempton Park's King George VI chase, an unprecedented four consecutive times.
In an interview after the race his trainer Paul Nichols with typical attentiveness to the well-being of his veteran star mentioned about Kauto making a breathing noise last year in training, the year in which an unexplainable decline in his winning power occurred. Nicholls also stated-
"Him and Ruby are a match made in heaven. He's great for racing, and I hope those who said he should have been retired will apologise. To beat a Gold Cup winner at his age is amazing. I'll never forget today. If things had gone wrong my neck was on the line, but I had a feeling he'd run a massive race."
The proverbial phrase 'jumped like a stag' conveys little meaning until seeing the equestrian athleticism of National hunt racing horses, where stamina and courage along with an ability to jump stiff fences is demanded. The above photo goes some way towards conveying these equestrian skills and the big difference between Flat and National hunt racing.