Sunday, March 18, 2007

Just how good is Kauto Star?


Kauto Star with connections, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, the sixth major race in a row he has won this season. He beat the best over the minimum distance of two miles, won the King George over three and now the Gold Cup over three-and-a-quarter. He has had the best season of any racehorse for probably forty years, since the great Arkle.

The question is just how great a race horse is Kauto Star? Some would like to have him as the best since Arkle, whilst others will say that he has only dominated one season and to be considered amongst the real greats, he will need to win major races in the next two seasons as well. It all depends on what one looks for and values and makes for endless hours of debate.

I will have him at the higher end of the scale for the reason that in thirty years of following the sport, I have never known a racehorse to dominate the season in such a way, beating all comers at all distances. On the official figures there may be other horses which have achieved a higher rating, possibly through one or two exceptional performances. I value consistency very highly and winning six major races tells me a lot more than an ' official' assessment of individual performances.

So, I will have Kauto Star better in my book than the likes of Burrough Hill Lad or Moscow Express who had high ratings, but who were less consistent or raced at just one distance. This leaves us with Desert Orchid who raced for many seasons at various distances, finally winning his Gold Cup in the mud and gloom of 1989, and Best Mate who won three Gold Cups, but who did not have very full seasons, his campaigns being primed at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Both horses captured the public's imagination, something which Kauto Star has not yet done, which is why we need to see him back in the coming years, running and winning at the highest levels.

As for my fancies, My Will and L'Ami, both ran disappointingly, the ground not being soft enough for either of them. I have had my worst Cheltenham betting-wise for about seven years, the main consolation being that I did not put too much money on all those horses who lost.

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