Owner Clive Smith says he is “extremely disappointed” at the reaction of trainer Paul Nicholls, after Kauto Star’s abrupt exit from the latter’s yard on Tuesday.
The winner of five King Georges and two Cheltenham Gold Cups for the owner and trainer, he had been officially retired in late October, but was expected to remain at Manor Farm Stables in Somerset until Boxing Day, when he was due to parade at Kempton.
However, he unexpectedly left Nicholls’ care after Smith had announced on Monday that the 12-year-old would be moving away to be prepared by European bronze medallist eventing rider Laura Collett and long-time Great Britain eventing manager and coach Yogi Breisner for a new career in the world of dressage.
The decision was not popular with Nicholls and his staff – and the champion trainer decided to ask Smith to remove Kauto Star from the yard less than a day later. It was a surprise to Smith, who says Nicholls had been fully briefed on future plans for the gelding.
“When Paul rang me I was on the runway heading to New York and he dropped the bombshell,” Smith said.
“The idea originally came about after talking to Di Arbuthnot, of Retraining of Racehorses, and she put me in touch with Yogi Breisner.
“Two weeks ago I had a coffee and a chat with Yogi and he suggested dressage, and I was very impressed with the idea. Not that either of us thought he’d shown any previous inclination, it was just something new. Yogi suggested Laura Collett, who is a European champion and a very good rider.
“Paul Nicholls has made out he didn’t know anything about it, but I’ve kept him informed since May.
“We talked about eventing and he knew he would be doing something away from the yard.
“I agreed to put him back into training but we made the decision on October 31 to retire him.
“We agreed he could stay at the yard until Boxing Day, but at Sandown on Saturday, I told him the dressage thing was coming about.
“I’m extremely disappointed in Paul Nicholls. We agreed about him leaving the yard and he even said Laura Collett could come and take away the horse. When I told him all this, he told me what a good job Neptune Collonges (Nicholls’ 2012 Grand National winner) had done in dressage.”
The winner of 19 races for the champion trainer, including four Betfair Chases and two Tingle Creeks, Kauto Star had been with Nicholls at his yard at Ditcheat, near Castle Cary, for eight years.
Collett, based at Membury in Wiltshire, used Twitter to write: “Just had a lovely chat with Paul Nicholls about Kauto Star. I have reassured him Kauto will be treated like the legend he is.”
KAUTO STAR CAREER IN PICTURES