Kauto Star close to retirement, hints owner Clive Smith

Punchestown Festival

Dates:
3-7 May
Coverage:
TV - At The Races; Updates on BBC Radio 5 live; Results/reports on BBC Sport website
Feature race:
1730 BST
Kauto Star at his Shepton Mallet stable
Kauto Star can look back on a hugely successful career

Owner Clive Smith has conceded that record-breaking steeplechaser Kauto Star is nearing retirement after he was pulled up at Punchestown.

The four-time King George VI Chase and dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner ran badly in the Punchestown Gold Cup, which was won by Follow The Plan.

Afterwards, trainer Paul Nicholls said a decision about the 11-year-old's future would be made in the autumn.

Smith told BBC Sport: "If he doesn't spark after a break we'll be sensible."

The gelding made history in December 2009 by surpassing Desert Orchid as the first horse to win chasing's mid-season championship, the King George at Kempton, four years running.

Earlier that year, he was the first chaser to regain the Gold Cup, having lost the title to Denman in 2008.

But he fell in last year's Gold Cup, and won only one race during the 2010-11 campaign on his seasonal return at Down Royal in November.

He was beaten into third behind winner Long Run in the King George and Gold Cup, and some racing fans have called for him to be retired.

Smith said he does not oppose the idea of retirement, but has accepted trainer Nicholls' proposal to assess the horse in the autumn.

"He's been a brilliant horse, who's had a wonderful career and I'm not desperate for him to prove anything," added Smith.

The owner said he was grateful regular jockey Ruby Walsh pulled the horse up, for the first time in the French-bred's eight-year racing career, when he realised Kauto Star was below par.

After the race, Somerset-based Nicholls said: "If he came back in the autumn and ran once more like that, then obviously we would retire him."

Asked if he had a race in mind for Kauto Star next season, Nicholls replied on his Twitter feed: "No plans at all. Want him to have nice break with Denman and review things in the autumn."