WILTSHIRE eventer Laura Collett is to team up with legendary racehorse Kauto Star after the retired chaser left the care of trainer Paul Nicholls.
Owner Clive Smith announced that the 12-year-old would be joining European bronze medalist eventing rider Collett, who is based at the Membury Estate near Marlborough, as he prepares to embark on a possible dressage career.
Collett, 22, is due to assisted by Yogi Breisner, the long-time Great Britain manager and coach, who has overseen medal success at Olympic, World and European level.
The five-times King George VI Chase hero and winner of the Betfair Chase four times was officially retired in October and Breisner will assess his suitability for the discipline in the coming weeks.
However, it was not thought that Kauto Star would leave Nicholls before Boxing Day, when he is due to lead the runners in the parade for the King George.
Collett 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."
She later added: "Kauto Star has arrived safe and sound... Had a nice roll, now happily munching on his hay!
"Kauto Star will be spoilt, loved and treated like the true legend that he is.''
Champion trainer Nicholls later wished his former stable star well for the future, but admitted he was saddened to see him depart.
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."
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."
He added later on Twitter: "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.''
Owner Smith 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)."
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