When I was in their company at Haydock recently, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Nicholls tried to make small talk with Smith at the unveiling of a statue to Kauto Star on Betfair Chase day. But they had already fallen out over the future of Kauto Star.
Now Smith, who was always going to move the horse away from the Manor House Farm stables in Ditcheat, has hit back at today’s comments by Nicholls. The trainer had expressed dismay at the way Smith has handled things of late. He was particularly annoyed when Smith told him he had been consulting “experts” regarding the future of Kauto Star. That comment must have cut deep.
Nobody could look after Kauto Star better than Nicholls and his dedicated employees at team Ditcheat.
Smith said tonight: “When Paul rang me I was on the runway heading to New York and he dropped the bombshell.
“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 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.”
My understanding of the emotions in Ditcheat tonight is this. Nobody at the former home of Kauto Star has concerns about his new home. Indeed Nicholls himself said tonight: “Lots of reaction re Kauto 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.”
And Laura Collett who is the lucky and talented lady who inherits Kauto Star said this evening: “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 is very settled and was more than happy with late night treats!”
Any dispute has always been between Paul Nicholls and Clive Smith.
If I had a great steeplechaser I wanted looking after I would send that horse to the caring people at Manor House Farm Stables. If I had the wealth of Clive Smith I would have left him there. But I don’t. What he does with Kauto Star is, of course, his prerogative. He owns the horse.
The saddest part of all this is that the career of a great racehorse has ended in an unseemly squabble. Which is a shame.