A POPULAR racehorse trainer and owner has died after a long battle with cancer.

David Barker died on Sunday at his home in Scorton, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, aged 44.

Mr Barker gave up training in 2009 after being diagnosed with lung cancer, but continued as an owner.

Tributes flooded in from across the racing community today (Monday, February 17).

Ex-jockey Niall Hannity was given some of his first rides at the start of his career by the trainer.

He said: “When someone dies people will say 'what a person they were', but David genuinely was a great man.

“Nobody could question him for not living his life to the full – he was always up for a craic.

“He was also an excellent trainer and was very good at buying horses cheaply and making a success of them.”

Fiona Neeham, general manager at Catterick Racecourse, described Mr Barker as a “larger than life” character.

“He was a lovely chap and his death at such a young age is tragic.”

His close friend Thirsk trainer David Nicholls said he was a gentleman.

"It is very hard to lose a friend and the sadness of his family will be shared by everybody in racing that knew him. It won't be the same without him being around."

Mr Barker began training in 1996 following the death of his father William Barker.

He proved adept at training sprinters, twice winning the Group Two Temple Stakes, first with Celtic Mill in 2005 and then with Sierra Vista in 2007.

Although bought for only 500 guineas (around £500), Sierra Vista earned close to £250,000 over her career.

After relinquishing his trainer’s licence following his cancer diagnosis, Mr Barker went on to watch 17 of his own horses become winners.

In 2012, Mr Barker helped to raise £2,575 for Cancer Research UK by organising a gentlemen-only fundraising meal at the Arden Arms, in Atley Hill, South Cowton.

The event was attended by more than 140 friends and colleagues.

Mr Barker, who was also a farmer outside of racing, leaves a wife Sam and three sons, John, Andrew and William.