Monday, December 26, 2011

Kauto Star's Horseshoes Are As Good as Gold: British Jump Champion Is a Golden Oldie in the Winner's Circle

Eleven-year-old British National Hunt superstar Kauto Star, one of the racing world's biggest stars, now has golden shoes, thanks to farrier Michael Jones who was commissioned to forge the special shoes. (Betfair photo)

You know you've made it in the world of sports when you look down and notice that your shoes are gold.

Olympic gold medalist track star Michael Johnson started the gold shoes tradition. His custom-made Nike running shoes were made from a gold-spun DuPont fiber. Photo by Klew97.

British soccer star David Beckham and his sponsor Adidas got in the act by custom-making these golden boots for his 100th game representing England. Photo by Aѕкαяαℓι Mคttย๓๓.

Puma press ad in honour of Usain Bolt's world records at Beijing
Jamaica's Usain Bolt wore untied gold shoes to win three gold medals, thanks to his sponsor, Puma. Photo by Sumeet Mulani.
It's one thing to get DuPont to spin a special golden synthetic fiber for an athletic shoe, but what do you do when the shoes need to be made of steel or aluminum?

That was the assignment given to English farrier Michael Jones DipWCF of MJ Farriers by the British wagering firm Betfair. Betfair wanted the National Hunt hero Kauto Star to know that he is as loved and honored as the human athletes, so they commissioned a set of gold horseshoes.

The assignment came during the runup to today's William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park racecourse in England. Kauto Star had won it four times but lost in 2010 to his great rival, Long Run--a horse who, at only six years old--is about half his age.

This is what it looks like when a winter-running jump horse with more than 40 lifetime starts (and about $5 million US in winnings) rewrites the racing record books:

Kauto Star is the only racehorse to have won consecutive Grade One races in eight consecutive years.

Mike Jones said that he began by forging the shoes from steel rather than aluminum; they were then plated with 13-karat gold. It took him two weeks to get them done.

"This is the first time I've made horseshoes out of gold," Jones commented in a press release from Betfair. "The process was much more intricate than normal. It was a real test of my craftsmanship, but I think these hooves are fit for a King."

The shoes will be presented to Kauto Star's trainer, Paul Nicholls.

"They are very fitting for a horse of his talent," Jones said by email. When I reached him tonight, he was celebrating at the pub with friends but talked for a few minutes about the project.

He said that he thought he had been chosen--out of all the farriers in Great Britain--to do this shoemaking project because he has been, until recently, the farrier for the Royal Household, which means that he shod horses for the Queen.

"These sorts of special projects just seem to find me," he said tonight.

Dan Hubbard DipWCF of Bath, England is Kauto Star's farrier for the un-ceremonial shoes that get the old campaigner around the track and back, year after year after year. I think he deserves some gold shoes, too!

Kauto Star turns 12 on Sunday, along with all the other Thoroughbreds in the Northern Hemisphere. That sounds like job security for Dan Hubbard. The Golden Oldie runs next in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which he was won twice.

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