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Pau Nicholls loses 'best mate' Kauto Star

Image: Nicholls (right) with Kauto Star after his fifth King George VI Chase success

Paul Nicholls hailed Kauto Star a "once in a lifetime" horse after the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner had to be put down due to injuries sustained in a paddock accident.

The 15-year-old enjoyed a glittering career with the champion trainer after being bought from France as a four-year-old, most notably winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton five times and becoming the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He retired from racing after pulling up in the 2012 renewal of the blue riband having won 23 of his 41 races and over £2.3million in win and place prize-money.

Later that year Kauto Star went on to pursue a career in dressage with Laura Collett, a decision which led to a breakdown in relations between Nicholls and owner Clive Smith.

Nicholls revealed he only learned of Kauto Star's injuries and euthanisation earlier on Tuesday and would have liked to have had the chance to say goodbye.

"In hindsight I wish somebody had informed me and Clifford [Baker, Nicholls' right hand man] and I could have gone to say farewell to him," he said.

"Laura Collett kindly called me before there was a press release this morning. That's the first I knew about it, although I understand the accident happened nearly a week ago," the champion trainer told Sky Sports News.

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"It's obviously a very sad day and very sad news to take on board. I'm obviously mortified.

"He was like my best mate really. I saw him every day and he was a great horse in every way temperament-wise.

"When he left, it was obviously a big hole we had to fill in everybody's lives. He'd been so good for racing and so good for everybody.

"When something like this happens it's awfully sad, but sometimes things are unavoidable.

"It hasn't really sunk in, to be honest. Everyone is very upset. It's happened and we've all got to get on.

"He was very sharp, not always easy to deal with and he had his own way of doing things, but he was just a brilliant horse and from day one he was always going to be very classy."

Kauto Star looked as though his best days could be behind him after pulling up in the 2011 Punchestown Gold Cup, but famously roared back later that year to win a fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock and his fifth King George VI Chase, days Nicholls admits were particularly special.

He said: "He won 16 Grade Ones. I've been very lucky to have trained some incredible horses, but I've always said he's once in a lifetime. To be able to win from two miles, to two-and-a-half and three miles plus, he was awesome.

"Even after he was written off, to come back and win his fourth Betfair Chase and a fifth King George said everything about him. He was just an amazing horse.

"Winning the Gold Cup was brilliant, but the two days that really stand out for me are the day at Haydock and the day at Kempton."

The Ditcheat handler believes his pride and joy may have won a third Cheltenham Gold Cup in his final year had his preparation been smoother.

"We never stopped learning about him and I think we had him at his best in the very last year he ran," said Nicholls.

"It was such a tragedy that he fell schooling before he going to try to win a third Gold Cup as he was probably in the form of his life. That wasn't to be.

"He lived on the edge a little bit, he was one of those sort of horses."

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