Clive Smith: relationship with Nicholls was strained after open dayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Kauto Star owner in Nicholls outburst
KAUTO STAR'S owner Clive Smith on Wednesday launched an astonishing attack on champion trainer Paul Nicholls, saying he considered their lengthy association had broken down irretrievably.
He said their relationship was already under severe strain following a confrontation at the stable's open day for owners in September.
Speaking from New York, where he is on holiday, Smith gave a version of events that was immediately disputed by Nicholls on Wednesday night.
Smith claimed Nicholls had been in a bad mood at the open day, when future plans for Kauto Star, who left the trainer's yard on Tuesday, were the subject of a heated discussion between the pair.
"There was no reason for me to guess what that was about."
"He came up to me with a tirade of foul language. He must have said six times that he wanted the horse out of the yard then, never mind this Tuesday.
"What happened was the final straw."
Paul Nicholls: refutes allegationsPICTURE: Edward Whitaker
Nicholls was made aware of Smith's comments Wednesday night and said: "I strongly refute these allegations, but the last thing I want is to become involved in a war of words with Clive. I have wished him all the best and I have no further comment to make on the matter."
Smith claimed the original plan for Kauto Star, agreed with the trainer at the end of October, was to move the five-time King George VI Chase winner from the trainer's yard at Ditcheat in Somerset after he had paraded on King George day at Kempton.
"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 at the yard until after the King George. 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 Clifford Baker.
"I'd already spoken to Yogi Breisner and he said it was no good having a top-class horse like this in a yard 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."
Smith stressed he was anxious to do what was best for the horse after an amazing eight-year career at Ditcheat in which his earnings spiralled to £2,375,000. "I don't want him to drift away when he has such ability and might take to dressage. He'd have a lovely time and be looked after terrifically well, just as he'd be at the Nicholls stable.
"Last Saturday it was finally decided to go ahead with the plan for Laura Collett and Yogi to have the horse and I told Paul of my plan. He said okay. He said he'd heard of Laura and that she was very good and he suggested she should come down, have a sit on the horse and have a chat with Clifford about him. It sounded very pleasant.
"On Monday at the King George lunch I was interviewed and mentioned the plan. As I left I said goodbye to Paul and all seemed fine. But yesterday [Tuesday] I was on the runway at Heathrow when he rang to say he was moving the horse."
Smith will return home from the US at the weekend. "I'll then go down to see the horse on Sunday," he said. "As things stand, the plan remains for him to parade at Kempton."
The owner also rekindled the difference of opinion over how to pronounce the horse's name. "To be honest, I was disappointed from early on that Paul didn't pronounce Kauto's name correctly," he said. "There was no excuse but he didn't back off."
Smith's other star chaser, dual Champion Chase winner Master Minded, is recovering from injury.
"He's with Tessa Woodhouse on a farm in Somerset," he said. "My next job is to sort out where he'll retire."