Kauto Star – The King of Christmas racing

Features | 20th December 2021

10 years on from his momentous 5th success in Boxing day's biggest race, the King George VI Chase, we look back on the modern marvel that was Kauto Star

This Christmas will mark the 10th anniversary of one of racing’s most extraordinary records. Kauto Star, who became more synonymous with Boxing Day than leftover turkey, won his fifth King George VI Chase with an emotional victory in front of the packed Kempton stands. 

It came after many racing fans had called for the great champion’s retirement having watching their hero struggle round way below his brilliant best the previous season. 

His resurgence made the dual Gold Cup winner’s historic victory all the sweeter. It’s a race that will live long in the memory. His King George VI Chase record is likely to last even longer and it might never be matched

Kauto Star had shown smart form in France before making the switch to Paul Nicholls’ powerful Somerset stables as a four‐year‐old. He was an instant hit. Racing in the colours of owner Clive Smith, he bolted up in a Newbury novice’s chase over Christmas in 2004. 

Less than 12 months later he had won the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and a legend was born. He stepped up in distance the following season winning the first of four Betfair Chases and he had no trouble adding the King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup to his burgeoning trophy haul.

By 2011 he had matched Desert Orchid’s record four King George wins and he had also become the first horse to regain the Gold Cup. What was the follow in his final season was scarcely believable

Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh jumping the last winning The William Hill King George VI Chase
Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh jumping the last winning The William Hill King George VI Chase

Kauto Star’s career appeared to be winding down to a conclusion when he could only finish third in both the King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the 2010/11 season.

By now he was 11‐years‐old and Father Time looked to be catching up with him. The champ’s crown has been snatched by Long Run in the season’s two biggest Grade 1 chases and a well‐deserved retirement was on the cards.

Even his adoring public seemed to have lost faith when he returned for the Betfair Chase the following season but he rolled back the years with one of the most emotional victories ever seen on a racecourse. 

His eight‐length defeat of Long Run set up a crack at a record fifth King George with Long Run again heading the opposition.

With regular jockey Ruby Walsh in the saddle, Kauto Star lined up on the outside of pacesetters Golan Way and Nacarat. The pair were soon in a lovely rhythm. Kauto’s jumping was superb and it took him into a narrow lead, lobbing along, with a circuit to run.

Long Run and amateur jockey Sam Waley Cohen were sat on his tail covering the move but his jumping was nowhere near as slick. Kauto Star had coasted into a four‐length lead turning for home with his main rival starting to come under strong pressure.

Flawless jumps at the final two fences sealed the deal and, although Long Run stayed on get within a length‐and‐a‐quarter at the winning line, he was never going to catch the Boxing Day record breaker.

It sparked scenes reserved for only the most special of sporting victories. And Kauto Star’s fifth King George win, given all that had gone before in the previous 18 months, was very special.


Kauto Star’s five King George victories has helped Nicholls dominate Kempton’s Christmas cracker. The champion trainer has landed the Boxing Day spectacular an astonishing 12 times.

Last year Frodon made it three King George wins in a row for Nicholls, following on from Clan Des Obeaux’s brace of victories.

They’re both likely to return to try to etch their name on to the trophy again. Frodon has already shown he’s still as good as ever this season. 

He put in his trademark scintillating frontrunning display under regular rider Bryony Frost when holding off Galvin to win Down Royal’s Champion Chase in October.

Kempton Frodon
Frodon and Bryony Frost winning The Ladbrokes King George VI Chase Kempton

His prominent style of racing, slick jumping and never‐say‐die attitude is perfectly suited to the demands of Kempton so he has to be one of the leading contenders. Clan Des Obeaux lost his King George crown to his stablemate last Christmas but he ended the season at with a superb brace of Grade 1 victories.

He won Aintree’s Betway Bowl Chase by a whopping 26 lengths and he followed it up three weeks later by beating Al Boum Photo in the Punchestown Gold Cup. Owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason and Paul Barber, he will head to Kempton as a fresh horse.

He hasn’t had a run this season but fitness is rarely a worry when Nicholls is doing the training. After all, if either of his runners does triumph on Boxing Day, it will be King George number 13 for the champion trainer. Luck doesn’t play a part in that sort of record.