Conflict over departure of Kauto Star
Owner Clive Smith spoke of being "extremely disappointed" in the reaction of trainer Paul Nicholls after Kauto Star's abrupt exit from the 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 St Stephen’s 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 eventing rider Laura Collett and long-time Great Britain 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 24 hours later.
The request came as a surprise to Smith, who says that Nicholls had been fully briefed on future plans for the superstar 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 eventually he would be doing something away from the yard.
"I agreed to put him back into training but we made the decision on 31 October 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 for eight years and was invariably ridden by his head lad Clifford Baker.
Nicholls admitted it had been a tearful occasion as Kauto Star left Ditcheat for the last time.
However, he said he felt it was best all round if his former stable star made a swift departure rather than waiting until after Christmas.
"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.
"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."
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."
"Good luck, old boy. You were the best - and deserve the best" - Trainer Paul Nicholls bids a fond farewell to one of the greatest chasers of all time
Speaking on Twitter this evening, Nicholls said: "Lots of reaction re K Star but I am very happy that he is going to a great home to be looked after by top people. He will be fine."
Collett, 22, who is an aspiring Olympian based in Wiltshire, will be helped by Breisner to assess the gelding's suitability for the discipline in the coming weeks.
She reported the jumps legend to be happily installed in his new home.
She tweeted: "Kauto Star has arrived safe and sound... Had a nice roll, now happily munching on his hay! (He) will be spoilt, loved and treated like the true legend that he is!
"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."
She added later: "Just had a lovely chat with @PFNicholls about Kauto Star...I have reassured him Kauto will be treated like the legend he is...".
Earlier in the day, members of the Ditcheat team expressed their disappointment on Twitter 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."