Racing Heroes: Best Mate and Kauto Star
In the latest Racing Hub series on Racing Heroes – Kyle Merrick is unable to split Best Mate and Kauto Star
We are all living in unprecedented times that has turned every aspect of life upside down and I hope that turning the clock back to our Racing Heroes might give a sense of escapism which can fill the time that normally would have been studying the form or watching the action on a Saturday afternoon.
My heroes are impossible to split because they are two icons that I will never forget. One started my passion and one was my attraction for my career aspirations to be a commentator.
The horse that got me into the Sport of Kings – my racing hero and my racing’s Best Mate
Best Mate. The clue is in the title. I was only two when he started his reign over the blue riband prize – The Cheltenham Gold Cup. Maybe it was the colours – the blue and claret stripes of Jim Lewis, maybe the number in the racecard, maybe my instinct.
Sadly, my memory is not strong enough to remember the day but the replays of 2002, 2003 and 2004 can be watched over and over again to enjoy his talent. Haldon Hill and Prestbury Park seemed to be his favourite courses and with the latter creating a chapter of history. The words “Three Gold cups” sums up the achievement that only very special thoroughbreds can achieve.
However, not only his performance on the racecourse was special to me but his legacy lives on. The Best Mate enclosure at Cheltenham is where I have spent many of my visits to the course, Including witnessing his own achievements at my first Festival.
The special mixture of getting close and personal where the horses canter down to the centre course starts for the two and half mile races as well as height advantage and great side views when the field make the downhill run towards the home turn is a great viewpoint for a spectator to watch the action unfold.
Best Mate – a hero that founded my interest of Cheltenham and the Festival.
My childhood legend – Kauto Star
Every fan of the sport will have a horse that connected with them emotionally and on a different level to other favourites. A horse that each run has a unique story and memorable narrative. I was lucky enough to be growing up in a time of many sporting stars, which has made my choice quite difficult.
Big Bucks, Master Minded, Binocular, Quevaga, Sea The Stars, Yeats, and Frankel. Yet one stands out. That is because I was Team Kauto. One of many sporting occasions which was a “I was there” moment, when the Cheltenham crowd of Cheltenham was rocking and the atmosphere created goose bumps on a gloomy, overcast Friday in March.
The volume of the crowds, the rivalry, the free scarfs and badges a nice little bonus. I witnessed my hero making history. Regaining the Cheltenham Gold Cup. His final fence antics always left you on edge and question in your head: “will he?”
As Kauto’s races unfolded you could not move an eye away. Your focus on the field as the atmosphere was building and buzzing with a sense of hope, anticipation and celebration when he eventually settled the fight by galloping away with Ruby punching the air.
Very quickly I learnt the Kaiser Chiefs song “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby” which was on repeat around Cleeve Hill and gives you an unique “good headache”.
Whilst in the traffic jam on the journey home as the commentary replays on Cheltenham Radio fizzle out, the “I was there” moment kicks in. Alongside that feeling: the reflection of how special it was and the realisation of a way to watch it happen – being the commentator.
It was not just the buzz of seeing him in the flesh at Cheltenham when the roller-coaster was on a high but also his low, when pulled up in 2012. The clapping echoing as my eyes continued to be focused on him as he walked back whilst the field entered their final circuit.
Watching every step when he conquered the record books was special. The Saturday around my birthday was always a special bonus with the Betfair chase and Kauto Star winning year after year. Again a month later at Christmas, my hero also a part of our family arrangements each Christmas. It was the turkey leftovers followed by Kauto at Kempton.
Tuesday 30 June 2015, I had an inset day from school. A day off! But a tinge of sadness that my childhood legend had gone. The horse that will be remembered as my childhood racing hero. Birthdays, Christmas events and my early practices of commentaries were all centred around my hero. The “Fizz in his step” and “Kauto Star canters home!” will not be forgotten.
Racing Heroes series
Lester Piggott http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3Yo
Kieren Fallon http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3Ua
The Aga Khan http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3SB
Best Mate and Kauto Star http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3Rk
Persian Punch http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3Px
Sir Peter O’Sullevan http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3NB