David 'Dandy' Nicholls, dies aged 61

Adrian Nicholls led the tributes to David 'Dandy' Nicholls after announcing the death of his father at the age of 61.

Nicholls - a former jockey, riding over 400 winners, including the flying filly Soba - won the Nunthorpe Stakes, July Cup, Prix de l'Abbaye and Haydock Sprint Cup, as well as all the major sprint handicaps such as the Ayr Gold Cup, in an illustrious training career.

Nicknamed the 'Sprint King', Nicholls has been responsible for such luminaries as Continent, Bahamian Pirate, Regal Parade and Ya Malak, who created his own piece of history when ridden by Nicholls' wife, Alex Greaves, as she became the first female rider to win a Group One in Britain, dead-heating with Coastal Bluff at York in 1997.

Born in Pudsey, West Yorkshire, Nicholls - who picked up his 'Dandy' tag from his early days in the saddle after the actress Dandy Nichols, who played Alf Garnet's long-suffering wife Else in Till Death Us Do Part - began training in 1992, but announced his retirement in March this year, citing financial problems.

Based at Tall Trees Stables near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, Nicholls, who had been battling illness, went out with a winner as stable star Sovereign Debt landed a valuable race in Qatar at the end of February and only on Saturday won the Diomed Stakes at Epsom for his new trainer Ruth Carr.

His son, Adrian, said: "He passed away in his sleep at home this (Sunday) morning. He'd been battling a few problems of late.

"Everybody knows in racing what he did. He was a very good jockey and an even better trainer and probably an even better dad.

"His record speaks for itself. There are a few other people snapping at his heels to take the 'Sprint King' title, but they'll be doing well to do what he did.

"Even yesterday, he was watching the racing and saw Sovereign Debt win at Epsom.

"He was good with apprentices and would always help jockeys out. There are a lot of lads who wouldn't be where they were if it wasn't for his help. He'd go out of his way to help you.

"We were only talking the other day about some of his sprinters. What he did with Bahamian Pirate, winning a Nunthorpe at the age of nine, an Ayr Gold Cup and other big races having started off as a plater just showed what he could do.

"The yard would be full of horses, not just good ones. Dad was being sent horses and improving them hand over fist and he had a great team round him at home.

"He won the Epsom Dash five times - I won it for him once (on Rudi's Pet in 2002). I don't think there was a sprint he didn't win. And he wasn't just winning them, he was having the first two, three or even four."

Carr, who took over the handling of Sovereign Debt when Nicholls handed in his licence earlier in the year, is the granddaughter of Soba's trainer, the late David Chapman.

"It's very sad. He was so good with his sprinters over the years," she said.

"Grandad thought a lot of him. It's a sad time for all involved."

A number of racing figures paid tribute on social media, with jockey Tony Hamilton tweeting: "Saddened to hear the loss of Dandy Nicholls who got me started as an apprentice. RIP."

Fellow rider Chris Hayes echoed those sentiments, adding: "Very sad to hear that Dandy Nicholls has passed away. A great character and a brilliant trainer. My thoughts are with his whole family."

Another weighing room colleague George Chaloner said: "Saddened to hear the loss of Dandy Nicholls. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

Former champion jockey Richard Hughes, who won the 2005 Dash for the trainer on Fire Up The Band, said: "Dandy Nicholls RIP. Horse racing has lost a great man and trainer."

Owner Dr Marwan Koukash, who had horses with Nicholls, said : "Very sad to hear of the death of Dandy (king of sprints) Nicholls . RIP mate and many thanks for the wonderful memories."

Nicholls leaves another son, James, and a daughter, Amy.


David 'Dandy' Nicholls was dubbed the 'Sprint King' for a very good reason. Following his death at the age of 61, Keith Hamer selects five of the best horses who flew the flag with distinction for the Thirsk trainer.


A very proud moment for Nicholls as Ya Malak dead-heated with Coastal Bluff in a dramatic finish to the Nunthorpe in 1997. The horse was ridden by his wife Alex Greaves, who became the first female jockey to win a Group One in Britain.


This hardy sprinter galloped through the ranks and earned his stripes by running in 104 races. After winning the Ayr Gold Cup in 2000, he went right to the top, with the highlight undoubtedly the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes at Nicholls' beloved York, which he captured in 2004 at the grand old age of nine.


Continent gave Nicholls a golden year in 2002 when winning the July Cup over six furlongs at Newmarket, with stablemate Bahamian Pirate back in second. A few months later, he then showed his versatility at the highest level by going on to lift the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp over the minimum trip.


A typically tough Nicholls speedster. One of his trainer's six Ayr Gold Cup heroes, when striding home in 2008, he went on to claim two Group Ones - the Haydock Sprint Cup in 2009 and the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville in 2010.


The popular grey had been the mainstay of the yard for the last few years, winning a host of Listed and Group races in England and Ireland as well as putting in memorable appearances further afield. The eight-year-old goes down as Nicholls' last ever winner after landing a valuable prize in Qatar at the end of February.


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