End of Era as Racing Remembers the Duke; DAVID NICHOLSON TRIBUTE

Article excerpt


RACING was yesterday mourning the death of one of its legends, David Nicholson, who died on Sunday evening aged only 67.

The Duke, as he was universally known because of his public school accent, had been in poor health since giving up training in 1999, having suffered all his life from asthma and from an allergy to horses.

All the more remarkable, therefore, that he should have ridden well over 600 winners as a jockey and trained some 1,500 winners.

He broke the mould by becoming champion trainer in 1993/4 and 1994/5 after Martin Pipe had set a new benchmark for jump trainers.

Pipe won the championship for the five previous and 10 subsequent years until the most recent season when Paul Nicholls finally lowered his colours.

Despite his illnesses he remained very much in touch with the sport, representing British bloodstock interests on behalf of the BHB for the past four years.

Only last week he was at the Deauville sales, staying in Honfleur for his annual holiday with his beloved wife Dinah. A bad cold kept him from accompanying her to his protege Alan King's Open Day on Sunday.

King, who was his assistant for 14 years, was understandably distraught yesterday. He said: 'It's a great shock. He would ring me every day, sometimes twice, to discuss the horses. What I had learned from him over the years was how to school horses over jumps.

'His rollickings could be hilarious but they were soon forgotten and you couldn't get a more loyal or supportive boss. We had some great horses such as Charter Party (the 1988 Gold Cup winner), Viking Flagship who was probably the toughest, Relkeel (very injury prone) and Mighty Mogul whose career was cut short by injury.' Nicholson was born into a racing dynasty as his father Frenchie trained before him at Condicote in the Cotswolds. Frenchie, also an exjockey, was a great tutor of apprentices, including champions such as Pat Eddery, Walter Swinburn and Paul Cook.

This was a trait he passed on to his son. David masterminded the careers of Peter Scudamore, Richard Dunwoody, Adrian Maguire, Richard Johnson and Robert Thornton.

It was not until 1992 that Nicholson moved from Condicote to Jackdaws Castle, two miles away, where Jonjo O'Neill now trains on behalf of JP McManus. His strike rate immediately improved.

Scudamore recalled yesterday: 'I started there and had six or seven years with the Duke. I rode his first Cheltenham Festival winners, Solar Cloud and Charter Party (in 1986). …