Like so many politicians say when they’re about to offer their resignation, I’ve ‘had time to reflect’. For me though, the reflection has been on the stunning victory of Kauto Star in King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, writes Elliot Slater.
In winning the race for the fourth successive year, Paul Nicholls’ French-bred gelding put up probably his best performance ever. Handing out a 36-length drubbing to Madison Du Berlais and Barbers Shop. There’s every reason to believe that at the age of nine, Kauto Star is actually getting better. Indeed, the Timeform organisation have allotted him a provisional official rating of 191. Four pounds higher than the mighty Desert Orchid and level with Mill House.
Only ‘Himself’, that is Arkle, and Flying Bolt are rated higher. Many people now asking the question, that had they been around at the same time, could Kauto Star have actually beaten Arkle?
Who knows? Arkle was indeed a magnificent racehorse, a horse that transcended sport to become an international icon. His dominance of steeplechasing in the 1960s was total, although Mill House ran some great races against him.
It seems to me that a cult status has developed around Kauto Star, the like of which hasn’t been seen on these shores since Desert Orchid in the late 1980s.
His forthcoming head-to-head with stable companion, 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and dual Hennessey hero Denman, is certainly something to look forward to. The hype around the race is likely to build to an almost unbearable crescendo come Gold Cup day. Imagine the publicity if either or both horses were to run in the world’s most famous race, the Aintree Grand National!
Every great sportsman needs a serious rivalry; Muhammad Ali with George Foreman, Bjorn Borg with John McEnroe, and now, in equine terms, Kauto Star with Denman.
Frankly, it is impossible to compare between generations and the argument is futile. What is indisputable is that we are enjoying a truly golden age of steeplechasing, thanks to the two Nicholls trained stars. Let’s just sit back and, as Derek Thompson insists on saying so often, “enjoy the moment”.