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Kauto Star owner Smith lets rip in row with Nicholls

Kauto Star owner Smith lets rip in row with Nicholls after legend leaves trainer's yard

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UPDATED:

11:40 GMT, 13 December 2012

The depth of the bitterness behind the row over the retirement plans for superstar steeplechaser Kauto Star have been revealed by the horse's owner Clive Smith.

Smith says his association with trainer Paul Nicholls has broken down irretrievably and that the strain on their relationship stretched back to an argument at Nicholls' Open Day in September.

Smith, on holiday in New York, said: 'He came up to me with a tirade of foul language. He must have said it six times that he wanted the horse out of the yard then, never mind this Tuesday. What happened was the final straw.'

Breakdown: Kauto Star's owner Clive Smith (left) and trainer Paul Nicholls

Breakdown: Kauto Star's owner Clive Smith (left) and trainer Paul Nicholls

He added in the Racing Post: 'On October 31, I had a final meeting with Paul. Kauto was in light training but it was confirmed he should be retired, as I'd wanted, but would stay in the yard until after the King George (at Kempton on Boxing Day).

'Then, a couple of weeks ago when I was at Haydock to unveil Kauto's statue, Paul bowled a googly at me, saying it would be right if he could stay at the yard with (head lad) Clifford Baker.

'I'd already spoken to Yogi Breisner (performance director of Britain's Olympic eventing team) and he said it was no good having a top-class horse in a yard like that where he's a hack.

'I'm sure Clifford Baker would do a wonderful job and he'd be lovely for him but I always thought I was the owner.

'I didn't see him enough anyway because I'm 100 miles away. As the owner I'm entitled to some time with him.'

Fans' favourite: Clifford Baker rides Kauto Star for the crowd at Haydock

Fans' favourite: Clifford Baker rides Kauto Star for the crowd at Haydock

Smith said he had been phoned by Nicholls and informed of his intention to remove the Kauto Star form his stable on Tuesday while he was on the runway at Heathrow about to embark.

He also laid bare his irritation at their difference in opinion in how to pronounce the horse's name. The trainer has always said 'Kato'.

Smith added: 'To be honest I was disappointed from early on that Paul didn't pronounce Kauto's name correctly. There was no excuse but he did not back off.'

In response, Nicholls said: 'I strongly refute these allegations but the last thing I want to do is to become involved in a war of words with Clive. I have wished him all the best and have no further comment to make.'

Legend: Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009

Legend: Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009

Kauto Star, the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner left the Nicholls' Somerset yard amid scenes of distress and expressions of bitterness among staff.

Nicholls said he realised that Smith planned to remove the horse and saw no reason to further delay with the hiatus causing distraction to his upset staff.

Kauto Star has joined Berkshire-based international event rider Laura Collett who, with Breisner, is assessing the best retirement plan for the 12-year-old. One option is Dressage.

Smith, who no longer has any horse in training with Nicholls, has said Kauto Star will still parade at Kempton on Boxing Day, although he will not be ridden by Baker as had been planned.

Crazy for Kempton: Kauto Star won the King George five times

Crazy for Kempton: Kauto Star won the King George five times

Kauto Star leaves Paul Nicholls" stables to begin new career in dressage

Nicholls saddened after Kauto Star leaves his stables to begin new career in dressage

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UPDATED:

18:47 GMT, 11 December 2012

Paul Nicholls admitted his 'sadness' after Kauto Star's time at his Ditcheat yard came to an abrupt end on Tuesday.

The winner of five King Georges and two Cheltenham Gold Cups had been officially retired in late October and was expected to remain at Manor Farm Stables in Somerset until Boxing Day, when he was due to parade at Kempton.

Owner Clive Smith had announced on Monday that the 12-year-old would be moving away to be prepared by European bronze medalist eventing rider Laura Collett and long-time Great Britain manager and coach Yogi Breisner for a new career in the world of dressage – a decision not popular with Nicholls and his staff.

Leap of faith: Kauto Star has left Nicholls' stables for the final time

Leap of faith: Kauto Star has left Nicholls' stables for the final time

The winner of 19 races for the champion trainer, including four Betfair Chases and two Tingle Creeks, Kauto Star had been with Nicholls for eight years and was invariably ridden by his head lad Clifford Baker.

'It is with great sadness that I have to report that Kauto Star has left the yard for the last time,' Nicholls told his Betfair column.

'It has been no secret that Kauto's future has been a great source of debate since we announced his retirement.

'And, 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.'

Crowd favourite: Kauto Star is set to begin a new life in dressage

Crowd favourite: Kauto Star is set to begin a new life in dressage

Nicholls went on: '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 dressage 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 the discipline in the coming weeks.

She tweeted: '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.'

Members of the Ditcheat team expressed their sadness at the horse's departure, with Nicholls' travelling head girl Donna Blake, tweeting:

'Farewell to our dear Kauto Star, sad day that he is leaving those who genuinely care and respect him. Undeserved.'

Smith is currently abroad, but at a lunch to promote the William Hill King George VI Chase in London on Monday, he had said: 'A lot of very good chasers have gone on to do very well at dressage, like Garrison Savannah and Neptune Collonges and I wanted him to have an interest – he's just too good to be a hack or to be out in a field.

'I wanted him to do something else and he's going to be down at the other side of Lambourn and Laura Collett and Yogi will be working with him. We'll know in a very short time (if it is a possible option).'