Some time ago the owner of Kauto Star, Clive Smith, and trainer Paul Nicholls fell out over the future of Kauto Star. The star attraction at the Somerset stables run so well by Nicholls.
Clive Smith wanted to keep Kauto Star racing. Paul Nicholls was adamant that Kauto Star be retired.
The two men have barely spoken a civil word since. I was in the same room as the two men recently.
To watch the body language of the very upright Smith as Nicholls spoke live on Channel 4’s ‘The Morning Line’ about how retiring the Gold Cup winner was “absolutely the right decision”; was a sight I shall never forget. Smith clearly believed otherwise and so wanted to say so.
But the man who is lucky to own Kauto Star kept up his public persona. Taking time out to talk to punters, have pictures taken with them and, of course, with Kauto Star. Clive Smith is a big, big punter. He bets with money you and I would reserve for buying a small island. He puts lots into racing and, of course, as owner of Kauto Star he can do what he likes with the horse.
Nicholls had feared Smith would send Kauto Star to race competitively in Ireland. So I guess the latest idea to try and train Kauto Star to be a dressage horse is a gentler option.
But it is the friendly and professional crowd at Team Ditcheat I feel for today. They care wonderfully for all the horses at the yard. As Nicholls is always keen to say, it is very much a team operation.And one part of that team is the lovely Donna Blake. Stable lass to Kauto Star and, along with Clifford Baker who rides him out every day, the best friend Kauto Star has. For years now I have watched Donna and Clifford at work with Kauto Star.They are very, very close to him.
I know there will be tears being shed right now at one of the most open and best run stables in the business.
I last saw Donna and Kauto Star together at Haydock Park a couple of weeks ago. It is hard to imagine Kauto Star without Donna or Clifford in attendance. I feel for them both and for all the team at Ditcheat who love Kauto Star so much.
Donna said via her Twitter feed:- “Farewell to our dear Kauto Star, sad day that he is leaving those a who genuinely care and respect him. Undeserved.”
I think you can gauge perfectly well from those comments who cares most about Kauto Star.Donna replied to those who sent her messages on Twitter. She said: “Not unexpected, but we lived in hope Clive Smith would do right by the horse and leave him with us…at home.
Donna continued: “Kauto is leaving us today. I’m very sad and emotional to lose my best friend..thankful for memories that I will cherish. We did our best to secure a peaceful retirement. Heartbroken.”
I guess it is the case that Kauto Star had to do something. Clive Smith argued that Kauto Star would have been bored out to grass every day. But, from the moment Smith and Nicholls had angry words about his future, his departure from Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat was inevitable.
I knew this would be the outcome. As did those at Ditcheat. We just didn’t want to face up to it.
He was a tourist attraction there. I have witnessed coaches arriving in the small village just to see both he and former next door neighbour Denman.
Now they are both gone. But they will never be forgotten. By Clifford, by Donna, by Paul, by team Ditcheat and by those of us who have been lucky enough to be alive at the same time as two of the greatest steeplechasers of all time.
Take good care Kauto Star. Best foot forward!