Racehorse trainer Dandy Nicholls has died

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David 'Dandy' Nicholls, best known for his training of a raft of top-class sprinters, has died aged 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 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.

Nicholls 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 went out with a winner as stable star Sovereign Debt landed a valuable race in Qatar at the end of February and only yesterday 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 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."

A number of racing figures have 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."