Nicholls leads tributes to Barker

First published in Sport

THE northern racing community is in mourning following the death last Sunday of former trainer David Barker at the age of 44.

Tributes to Barker, who quit training after being diagnosed with cancer in 2009, were led by his close friend David Nicholls who described him as “a larger than life character”

while all saluted the sense of fun that made the father-ofthree such a popular personality across the sport.

Barker, who died at his home in Scorton, near Richmond, began training in 1996 following the death of his father William Barker and proved to be a maestro with sprinters, most notably saddling Celtic Mill to land the 2005 Temple Stakes before winning the Group 2 contest again two years later with Sierra Vista.

Both were standard-bearers for the stable with Celtic Mill winning 17 races and Sierra Vista, a 500gns purchase, earning close to £250,000 over her career, while other star performers for Barker included 16-time winner Tancred Times and Mecca’s Mate, a 3,500gns buy whose eight successes featured a brace of Listed races.

Since relinquishing his licence, Barker embraced the role of owner and was rewarded by seeing his colours carried to victory on 21 occasions in association with a number of trainers including Nicholls, John Quinn and Richard Fahey.

Nicholls said: “David was a gentleman and a larger than life character. We travelled halfway round the world together competing against one another and never had a bad word. He was a lovely lad and a lot of fun. 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.”

Barker, whose business interests outside racing included a quarry and farm, leaves a wife Sam and three sons, John, Andrew and William.

Back on the racing front, Alan Swinbank enjoyed a fine double at Soutwell on Monday with both Gogeo and Mitchell’s Way coming home in front under Paddy Brennan.

Tuesday proved a memorable day for conditional jockey Ryan Clark who rode his first career winner aboard Captain Clayton in the Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby.

The 23-year-old pilot from Grimsby gave his mount what Middleham trainer Simon West described as a “very professional ride” and the 33/1 shot ran out a comfortable two-length winner at the expense of Heavenstown.

A jubilant Clark said: “I’m over the moon with that and it’s a day I’ll always remember.

I’d not had anything to do with horses before I was 16, but that’s when I went to racing school and I’ve been riding now for a couple of years.”

West said: “I told Ryan to take his time and for a jockey who has never won a race, he’s given the horse a brilliant ride and he’s got a good head on his shoulders for a young lad.”

Staying at Wetherby, and there was a dramatic finish to the Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase when the gutsy Legendary Hop staying on best under Tom Messenger to thwart Phil Kirby’s Mrs Eff’s bid to score over course and distance for the second time by a neck.

As the petrol tank began to empty rapidly approaching the line, Mrs Eff was forced to give way to Chris Bealby’s charge.

Bealby, who was saddling his third winner of the season, said: “We know she stays well and I was confident she’d get there when she had something to aim at.

“We’ve had a pretty quiet time this season but the horses are coming back to form now and it seems like we’ve turned the corner.”

Kirby gained compensation when the very smart Lady Buttons took the concluding bumper under the yards conditional rider Adam Nicol.

The mare is now two from three in her short career and the winning rider said: “She’s done that very easily and we’ll probably go to Aintree for the Listed race next. She’s the best of our bumper horses and I’d like to think she’d be better on better ground.”

Tomorrow the prestigious Eider Chase takes centre stage at Newcastle and stamina will be the key component on very testing ground.

A competitive field is guaranteed and the Alistair Whillians trained Samstown makes plenty of appeal near the bottom of the weights.

The seven race card is due under way at 1.50pm.

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