Kauto Star has unexpectedly left the care of trainer Paul Nicholls as he prepares to embark on a possible dressage career.
Owner Clive Smith announced on Monday that the 12-year-old would be joining European bronze medalist eventing rider Laura Collett as he explores avenues to keep his now-retired superstar chaser active in retirement.
Collett, 22, is due to be 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 thought that Kauto Star would not leave Nicholls before Boxing Day, when he is due to lead the runners in the parade for the King George.
The champion trainer later wished his former stable star well for the future, tweeting: "Just to confirm we have delivered KS to his new home. I'm sure he will have the best of everything. Good luck my friend, horse of a lifetime."
Nicholls later revealed in his Betfair column he had asked Smith to remove Kauto Star from the yard following discussions with his team, saying: "It is with great sadness that I have to report that Kauto Star has left the yard for the last time. 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.
"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 eventing 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."