Group 1-winning trainer David Nicholls has died at the age of 61 following a long-term battle with illness.

Born in Pudsey in North Yorkshire, Nicholls began his career in racing in the saddle apprenticed to Deryck Bastiman.

The likes of prolific winner Soba helped him to accrue over 400 winners as a jockey before he turned his attention to the training ranks.

Nicknamed ‘Dandy’, he went on to send out a number of high-class sprinters from his base at Tall Trees near Thirsk, so much so that he developed a reputation as the ‘sprint king’.

His partner Alex Greaves became the first female rider to win a Group 1 race in Britain when landing the Nunthorpe Stakes aboard the yard’s Ya Malak in 1997.

Son Adrian, who partnered so many of the Tall Trees stars, 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.

“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.”

Nicholls jnr gave his father what was to be his last win at the highest level back in 2010.

He drove the well-known mud lover Regal Parade to success in the Group 1 Prix Maurice De Gheest at Deauville.

He’d go out of his way to help you

As well as training two winners over jumps, Nicholls registered 1,267 winners on the Flat with his finest season coming in 2011 when he amassed 93 winners.

Before he was forced to quit the training ranks earlier in the year owing to financial reasons, the grey Sovereign Debt gave him a final Group winner when taking the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup in Qatar.

Six-time champion jockey Kieren Fallon, who partnered Moss Vale to multiple victories at Group level, said on twitter: “Totally devastated to hear of the passing of my good friend Dandy Nicholls. Great jockey, great trainer & great friend. Will be sadly missed.”