Financial problems force Nicholls to call time on career

David Nicholls

David Nicholls: a dab hand with sprinters over the years

 PICTURE:Martin Lynch ( 

 By Graham Dench 7:00PM 9 MAR 2017 

DAVID NICHOLLS, known as the ‘Sprint King’ after a string of high-profile successes, has been forced to quit training with immediate effect, citing financial problems.

Nicholls, whose riding career yielded more than 400 winners and a memorable association with Soba, took up training in 1993 and numbered the July Cup, Nunthorpe, Prix de l’Abbaye and Sprint Cup among well over 1,300 winners

Although times have been leaner in recent years, Nicholls went out on a high, with the Lady O’Reilly-owned Group 3 winner Sovereign Debt, his stable star, last month landing a £93,000 local Group 2 in Doha, Qatar.

Continent and Regal Parade each struck twice at Group 1 level for the trainer, while Bahamian Pirate and Ya Malak were also Group 1 winners, Ya Malak providing Alex Greaves with a historic first success at that level for a female in Britain when dead-heating for the 1997 Nunthorpe.

Tattersalls, with whom Nicholls did fruitful business for decades, are pursuing a legal claim for what director Jimmy George describes as “a long-standing debt”, and Nicholls also faces a trial in the summer on two charges of sexual assault relating to incidents at his Tall Trees yard in Sessay, near Thirsk.

Nicholls, 60, tweeted on Wednesday night: “Sovereign Debt was our last runner from Tall Trees as due to financial problems we have had to cease training.

“It was nice to go out on a high during what has been a difficult time and I’d like to thank all our owners that have supported us.”

Nicholls is unable to elaborate upon his issues but does not rule out returning one day.

He said: “Never say never. There are loads of avenues. It’s not all about D Nicholls, racehorse trainer. I’m not going to give in, and things can change.”

Regal Parade

Regal Parade: twice a Group 1 winner for David Nicholls

 PICTURE:Martin Lynch 

Reflecting on a career which started with Soba’s trainer David Chapman, he said: “I’ve been in racing all my life and never had a bad day. It’s taken me all over the world and given me and my family a great living.

“I’ve trained a lot of special horses and won Group 1s with Continent, Bahamian Pirate, Regal Parade and Ya Malak, as well as the Ayr Gold Cup six times.”

His methods were described by fellow trainer Kevin Ryan as “unconventional”, and Nicholls said: “We got lucky with the facilities, as we didn’t have to keep taking them to the gallops and boring them. All trainers look after their horses and care for them, but some horses don’t want the routine of a big stable and enjoyed our regime more.

“I learned a lot from David Chapman. He was a great man and we started out doing things his way. I remember going to David’s as a kid on my bike and seeing about 50 horses turned out in a big field.

“I’d gone there to ride out and they were all in the field with rugs on! Some days they’d stay out until eight at night. He was an incredible man and knew when they were ready to win.

“We had a great relationship and he was very loyal. I tried to be the same and I gave a lot of jockeys chances because everyone deserves a chance. I’d like to think I helped Silvestre [De Sousa], Kieren [Fallon] and Franny [Norton] and I’m proud of how they’ve all done.”

Adrian Nicholls

Adrian Nicholls: paid tribute to his father

 PICTURE:Patrick McCann ( 

Nicholls’ son Adrian, now retired from the saddle and an instructor at the Northern Racing School, rode the vast majority of his winners for the stable.

He said: “Dad was the best conditioner of a horse I’ve ever known and it was no fluke he trained an endless stream of good horses. He saw potential in horses that others couldn’t see, and the records confirm it as he found phenomenal improvement in them. Tax Free was my favourite, but look at what he did with Bahamian Pirate and Regal Parade.

“Regal Parade started with him rated 86 and Bahamian Pirate 59. When Bahamian Pirate won the Ayr Gold Cup he was maybe the least fancied of the battalion, and I preferred Royal Result, but dad insisted I rode him and he gave him his first winner of the race, before going on to win the Nunthorpe at nine and race on until he was 12.

“He had a great head lad in Ben Beasley, but he was a genius with horses and I’m not just saying that because he was my dad.”

David Nicholls – training CV

Full name David Nicholls

Born Pudsey, Yorkshire, April 30, 1956

Wives Norma Spaven (son Adrian), Alex Greaves

Apprenticed to Deryck Bastiman, Robin Bastiman, Clifford Watts

First winner Hunting Tower, Chester, July 13, 1973

Most prolific winners in a season Soba (11 in 1982), Chaplins Club (7 in 1985), both trained by David Chapman

Pattern winner as jockey Soba (1983 King George Stakes)

Other big wins on Soba 1982 Gosforth Park Cup, Stewards’ Cup, Great St Wilfrid Handicap, Scarbrough Stakes, Coral Bookmakers’ Champion Sprint (York), 1983 Scarbrough Stakes

Most wins in a season as jockey 47 (1984)

Total wins as jockey 421 in 21 seasons (1973-93)

Stables Tall Trees, Sessay, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire 1993-2017

First winner as trainer Make Mine A Double, Southwell, December 16, 1993

First Pattern winner as trainer Venture Capitalist (1996 Duke of York Stakes)

Sovereign Debt and Chris Hayes

Sovereign Debt: last winner sent out by trainer David Nicholls

 PICTURE:Alain Barr ( 

Group 1 winners Ya Malak (1997 Nunthorpe Stakes dead-heat), Continent (2002 July Cup, Prix de l’Abbaye), Bahamian Pirate (2004 Nunthorpe Stakes), Regal Parade (2009 Haydock Sprint Cup, 2010 Prix Maurice de Gheest)

Other Pattern winners Proud Native, Rudi’s Pet, Strike Up The Band, Fire Up The Band, Moss Vale, Tax Free, Peace Offering, Garnica, Inxile, Sovereign Debt

Ayr Gold Cup winners Bahamian Pirate (2000), Continent (2001), Funfair Wane (2002, 2004), Regal Parade (2008), Redford (2010)

Ayr Gold Cup 1-2s 2008, 2010

Cartier Award winner Continent (2002 sprinter)

Most runners in one race 12 in Stewards’ Sprint Handicap (Goodwood) 2003; 11 in same race 2004

Last winner Sovereign Debt, Doha (Qatar) February 24, 2017

Most wins in a season 93 (2011)

Total wins as trainer in Britain 1,267

Compiled by John Randall

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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