I have trained some wonderful horses but Kauto Star was extra special – probably the most important horse in my life.
He was also a mate. I always said that if I had a bag of carrots I would always save that last for him.
While he was in my Somerset stable, he was the first horse I looked at every morning and the one I could see him all day in his stable from the office window.
Paul Nicholls: I have trained some wonderful horses but Kauto Star was extra special
News of his death has left me and my team, especially my head lad Clifford Baker who looked after him and rode him out almost every day, mortified.
My 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Denman and four-time World Hurdle winner Big Buck’s were both legends in their own right but Kauto Star was extra special.
He had the speed to win races over two miles like the Grade One Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and the stamina to twice win the Cheltenham Gold Cup over three and a quarter miles.
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Kauto Star had everything you wanted in a champion. Resilience – he bounced back from injury – plus the will to win. He would run himself into the ground for you.
Some of the work he did here at Ditcheat was unbelievable.
The only horse who ever worked better than him was Master Minded a few days before he won the 2008 Champion Chase as a five-year-old by 19 lengths.
It was the only time I saw anything get near him.
Nicholls (right) with owner Clive Smith and Kauto Star with the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2009
From day one after he arrived from France in 2004, we knew he was different and after he won at Newbury in December the smile on the face of jockey Ruby Walsh said everything.
Next time out at Exeter, when he finished second after falling and being re-mounted, he sustained a hairline leg fracture.
The injury meant three months in box and I always maintain that was the making of Kauto Star. It gave him time to mature rather than us running him that season.
Jumping wise he did occasionally take chances and sometimes he didn’t get away with them.
He could easily have lost his life when being galloped all over in the 2006 Champion Chase and also fell heavily in the 2010 Gold Cup.
Kauto Star being paraded around his home village of Ditcheat after his victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton in December 2011
But that was Kauto Star – he lived life on the edge and needed channelling in the right direction.
At home, he was always sharp to ride and would whip round at anything. Clifford certainly had some hairy moments on him and you could not just put anyone on him.
Sixteen grade one wins is some record as is two Gold Cups and he was probably not even a true stayer. Hs class saw him home.
It was the three miles at Kempton that was his optimum and where he won his record five King George VI Chases on Boxing Day.
The final one in 2011 stands out for me, especially off the back of his fourth win the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
He’d lost his form and there were questions in the media about whether he should be retired.
Kauto Star, who won a host of races during his time, being ridden by Ruby Walsh in 2004
My neck was on the block but we changed our approach and got him fitter and better. It was probably the best he had ever been.
It was such a shame a fall on the schooling grounds disrupted the build-up to his final run in the 2012 Gold Cup when he was pulled up. I still believe he was capable of winning that race for a third time..
But that was Kauto Star. He took risks, but was brilliant because of that.
He was a horse with nine lives … unfortunately for him they ran out.
Paul Nicholls writes for www.Betfair.com