AN acrimonious falling out between Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith led to the legendary Kauto Star’s abrupt removal yesterday from the champion trainer’s yard.
Nicholls had offered a home for life to the recently retired 12-year-old whose record-breaking career included two Cheltenham Gold Cups and five victories in the King George VI Chase.
Yet Smith had indicated earlier on Monday that his horse of a lifetime would be joining European bronze medallist eventing rider Laura Collett as he explores avenues to keep his now-retired superstar chaser active in retirement.
Collett, 22, is due to be assisted by Yogi Breisner, the long-time Great Britain manager and coach, who has overseen medal success at Olympic, World and European level.
The disagreement meant some staff, or those closely involved with the Ditcheat stable, were not present to say farewell to Kauto Star who has been ridden out every day for the past eight years by the trainer’s widely-respected head lad Clifford Baker.
His daughter Danielle tweeted: “Gutted to think that (Kauto Star) won’t be home when I next go back and I never even got to say goodbye. Such a special horse.”
Smith declined to comment, but the trainer said he had to “take control” of the situation before it became even more upsetting for those involved.
“It has been no secret that Kauto’s future has been a great source of debate since we announced his retirement,” Nicholls told his Betfair column.
“To be brutally honest, this morning I felt the time had finally come for me to take control of the situation, and to start making the decisions.
“Now, I am fully aware that Kauto is Clive’s horse and he can do as he wishes, even though I would personally have loved Clifford to have looked after him for the rest of his years.
“But what upset me and my team here is when Clive announced that he had spoken to experts about the horse’s future – but failed to consult and listen properly to the team that had looked after him here for the past nine years.
“That really upset us. So we had a team meeting here this morning. And after listening to everybody involved – there were about six of us in the meeting – I rang up Clive, said I don’t want to fall out, but we think it is in the best interests of everybody concerned to take Kauto to Yogi Breisner’s this afternoon so that he could start his new career in the eventing field as soon as possible.
“Which we did with the saddest of hearts. But I like to think with a lot of dignity, too. And, yes, there were plenty of tears too. He was a member of the family here at Ditcheat, and we will all miss him so much.
“I would just to like say that it was a privilege for us here at Ditcheat to train the horse. Good luck, old boy. You were the best – and deserve the best.”
Collett, 22, who is an aspiring Olympian based at the Membury Estate in Wiltshire, will be helped by Breisner to assess the gelding’s suitability for dressage in the coming weeks.
She said: “I feel very privileged and extremely honoured to have been asked to ride Kauto Star.
“I will be working closely with Yogi to give Kauto Star the best chance of a second career in dressage.”
Meanwhile current champion hurdler Rock On Ruby is one of nine entries for Saturday’s stanjames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham.