Monday 7 May 2018

David Nicholson

David Nicholson, universally known as “The Duke”, was a highly successful National Hunt trainer. In a 31-year career, he saddled a total of 1,499 winners, including 17 at the Cheltenham Festival, and won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship twice, in 1993/94 and 1994/95. In fact, he was the only trainer to break the monopoly on the trainers’ title held by Martin Pipe between 1988/89 and 2004/05.

Instantly recognisable on the racecourse by his gaudy sheepskin coat and red socks, and famous for his frank, forthright attitude, Nicholson sent out his first Cheltenham Festival winner in 1986. The victory of Solar Cloud in the Triumph Hurdle, though, was followed by another for Charter Party in the National Hunt Chase later the same day. Charter Party would return to Prestbury Park two years later to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Alongside property developer Colin Smith, who owned a share of Charter Party, Nicholson was instrumental in the development of Jackdaws Castle, a state-of-the-art training facility in Temple Guiting, near Cheltenham, now occupied by Jonjo O’Neill. As the horse racing tips indicate, this paid dividends. In 1990, he sold Cotswold House, in Condicote, near Stow-on-the-Wold and accepted a salaried position at Jackdaws Castle. Later Cheltenham Festival highlights included Mysilv in the Triumph Hurdle in 1994, Viking Flagship in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1994 and 1995 and Anzum in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 1999.

David Nicholson retired from training in 1999 and died, from a heart attack, in 2006, at the age of 67. In 2008, a new race, registered as the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, was added to the Cheltenham in his memory but, for sponsorship purposes, has been run as the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle since 2011.

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