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'Like a hawk among house sparrows': Kauto Star, a steeplechasing legend

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"The concept of ‘icon’ has been applied to numerous athletes as a result of their sporting achievements, likeable public personas and stories of triumph, resilience and courage. The cultural role of the horse as icon, hero, celebrity and
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  This article was downloaded by: [Leeds Metropolitan University]On: 20 November 2013, At: 03:36Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK Sport in History Publication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rsih20 ‘Like a Hawk among HouseSparrows’: Kauto Star, aSteeplechasing Legend Katherine Dashper & Thomas FletcherPublished online: 20 Nov 2013. To cite this article:  Katherine Dashper & Thomas Fletcher (2013) ‘Like a Hawk amongHouse Sparrows’: Kauto Star, a Steeplechasing Legend, Sport in History, 33:4, 488-511,DOI: 10.1080/17460263.2013.850269 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17460263.2013.850269 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, orsuitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressedin this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not theviews of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content shouldnot be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions,claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilitieswhatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connectionwith, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly  forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   L  e  e   d  s   M  e   t  r  o  p  o   l   i   t  a  n   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   ]  a   t   0   3  :   3   6   2   0   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  ‘ Like a Hawk among HouseSparrows ’ : Kauto Star, aSteeplechasing Legend 1 Katherine Dashper & Thomas Fletcher The concept of   ‘ icon ’  has been applied to numerous athletes as a result of their sporting achievements, likeable public personas and stories of triumph,resilience and courage. The cultural role of the horse as icon, hero, celebrity and national luminary, however, is lacking within the published literature.In this article we extend this human concept to apply to the racehorse KautoStar, who was heralded by many as the saviour of British horse racing inthe early twenty-first century. We argue that the narrative surrounding Kauto Star had all the essential ingredients for the construction of a heroic storyline around this equine superstar: his sporting talent; his flaws and ability to overcome adversity; his  ‘ rivalry  ’  with his stablemate; his  ‘ connec-tions ’  to high-profile humans in the racing world; and the adoration hereceived from the racing public. Media representations are key elements inthe construction of sporting narratives and in the production of heroes and villains within sport. In this article we construct a narrative of Kauto Star,as produced through media reports and published biographies, to explorehow this equine star has been elevated beyond the status of   ‘ animal  ’  , ‘ racehorse ’  or even  ‘ athlete ’  to the exalted position of sporting icon. Introduction Sports lend themselves to the production and presentation of culturalicons. The status of a sporting icon is usually conferred on men andwomen for their performances on a field of play. 2 However, is iconicity defined by performances alone? Over the last three/four decades there has Katherine Dashper and Thomas Fletcher, Leeds Metropolitan University. Correspondence to:K.Dashper@leedsmet.ac.uk  Sport in History,  2013 Vol. 33, No. 4, 488 – 511,  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17460263.2013.850269 © 2013 The British Society of Sports History     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   L  e  e   d  s   M  e   t  r  o  p  o   l   i   t  a  n   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   ]  a   t   0   3  :   3   6   2   0   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  been a proliferation of writings about the achievements of certainsportsmen and women. However, very rarely have non-human athletesfeatured within this literature. The focus of this article is the racehorseKauto Star, a French-bred thoroughbred who achieved great success onthe racetrack and gained a special place in the hearts of the British racing public. We argue that Kauto Star should be considered a sporting icon inmuch the same way as some human athletes have been granted iconicstatus. As with many human sporting icons, Kauto Star ’ s story containsincredible sporting achievements, an ability to overcome adversity, anintense rivalry with a competitor and, perhaps most importantly, anability to galvanize public support and affection. Our aim in thiscontribution is to explore the varied ways in which Kauto Star ’ s statusas a sporting icon has been developed.As we will show, the narrative of Kauto Star contains many of theingredients that are familiar from the narratives of human sporting icons,as identified by a number of different authors. 3 However, Kauto Star isnot a human, and therefore we need to question whether it is appropriateto consider a non-human animal as an icon  –  a human, or perhaps super-human, concept. Fudge suggests that the concept of   ‘ biography  ’  is appliedto humans alone, and not to animals, because the idea of   ‘ telling a life ’  isto do more than just state facts, it also implies that the individualconcerned can construct a life story themselves, and can communicatethrough language their own understandings about that life story. 4 Clearly Kauto Star cannot do this, or not in terms that humans can understand.However, we argue that although Kauto Star ’ s inability to construct andrelate his own life story in human terms may limit our ability to fully understand that life, this does not mean he cannot be granted iconicstatus. In fact, we would go as far as to suggest that his inability to tell hisown story or offer his own interpretations and insights actually increasesthe iconic status of Kauto Star and other non-human animals who excelin the human-defined world of organized sport. In the absence of KautoStar ’ s own interpretations, the racing press and public are free to write hisstory and portray his character on their terms.Kauto Star (19 March 2000 – present) is a retired French-bred thor-oughbred National Hunt champion racehorse. He is a bay, with an easily recognizable white stripe on his face. He is owned by Clive Smith, wastrained by Paul Nicholls and was ridden primarily by champion jockey Ruby Walsh. He won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, the King GeorgeVI Chase a record five times and the Betfair Chase four times. He iswidely considered one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time; frequently being compared to the legendary pair of Arkle and Desert Orchid. Kauto Sport in History   489    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   L  e  e   d  s   M  e   t  r  o  p  o   l   i   t  a  n   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   ]  a   t   0   3  :   3   6   2   0   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  Star was retired in October 2012 as the season ’ s highest-rated steeple-chaser for a fourth time. He retired as the most successful National Hunthorse in the history of the sport, winning a total of £2,375,883 in prizemoney, including the Betfair Million. Kauto Star ’ s racing credentials aretestament to his exceptional ability, and this ability, coupled with hisunrivalled achievements, are key elements in his elevation to sporting icon. However we contend that ability and success alone are not enoughto account for the high regard in which this racehorse is held by theracing public in Britain. We suggest that there are five factors thatcontribute to the elevation of Kauto Star to the status of sporting icon: hisexceptional ability; his flaws and ability to overcome adversity; his  ‘ rivalry  ’ with his stablemate, Denman; his  ‘ connections ’  to high-profile humans inthe racing world; and, the love and adoration he engendered in the racing public. This article begins by considering the literature surrounding sporting icons, heroes and celebrities, and briefly exploring some of theissues related to the inclusion of animals in sport, and particularly inracing. We then move on to consider, through an analysis of mediareports and biographies, the varied ways in which this exceptional bay thoroughbred has been constructed as a sporting icon, using the fivefactors outlined above as a framework. Icons/celebrities/heroes According to Malcolm, literature on sporting icons has largely centredupon three main themes: gender,  ‘ race ’  and nation, and the variousintersections therein. 5 A number of sports have featured within theseanalyses, including association football, cricket, ice hockey and boxing. 6 More recently, in a volume by Wagg and Russell, focusing entirely on thenorth of England, icons from sports including fell running, climbing andspeedway have been examined. 7 However, currently, notwithstanding Crawford ’ s analysis of Foxhunter and Red Rum, the cultural role of thehorse as icon, hero, celebrity and national luminary is lacking within theliterature. 8 Current literature has tended to discuss iconic sporting individualswithin the discourses of heroism and celebrity. Various authors haveattempted to define the statuses of sporting hero and celebrity, thoughthere has been less literature devoted to the sporting icon. We acknow-ledge that each of these concepts is heterogeneous in its own right andwe do attempt to situate each within an appropriate discourse through-out this paper. For now, however, it is appropriate to articulate someof the literature on sporting heroes and celebrities. In an early  490  K. Dashper and T. Fletcher     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   L  e  e   d  s   M  e   t  r  o  p  o   l   i   t  a  n   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   ]  a   t   0   3  :   3   6   2   0   N  o  v  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   3
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