Royal Ascot - At The Races

Richard Johnson 'in shock' after death announced of Richard Woollacott

    Champion jockey Richard Johnson led the tributes to trainer Richard Woollacott following the shock news of his death at the age of 40.
  • Tuesday 23 January 2018
  • News

Champion jockey Richard Johnson led the tributes to trainer Richard Woollacott following the shock news of his death at the age of 40.

Based at South Molton in Devon, Woollacott hit the headlines in December when the Johnson-ridden Beer Goggles claimed victory in the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

His death was announced on Tuesday morning and Johnson paid tribute to Woollacott's work ethic and likeable personality.

He said: "It's a massive shock to everyone. I was very lucky to have a couple of nice winners for him, but apart from that I knew him from his point-to-point days. I've known him a long time.

"He worked very hard and always did the job very well. He was a lovely fella to have around. He was always good fun and always had a smile on his face.

"It's very sad and our thoughts are with his young family. He didn't have many hurdlers, but he had two very nice ones.

"I think everyone is in shock. Hopefully everyone will give his family time to cope with it."

A spokesman for Richard Woollacott Racing announced Woollacott's death in a statement issued to Press Association Sport.

The statement read: "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Richard this morning.

"May we ask that you respect the family's privacy at this most difficult time."

Devon and Cornwall Police also issued a statement which read: "Police were notified at around 10.30 yesterday (Monday) to reports of a concern of welfare for a man at a property in Rose Ash, South Molton.

"A man in his 40s was discovered deceased at the scene.

"His death is not believed to be suspicious and a file has been prepared for the coroner."

Woollacott began training point-to-point horses in 2005, saddling over 130 winners, and he was also a keen rider in that sphere, claiming over 100 victories.

He was crowned champion point-to-point rider in Britain in 2010, as well as taking the regional title for Devon and Cornwall on multiple occasions.

Woollacott then switched his attention to training under Rules, taking out his licence in June 2012 before saddling 16 winners in the 2012-13 campaign.

He sent out 24 winners in the following three seasons, but enjoyed a breakthrough moment at last year's Grand National meeting at Aintree as Lalor landed a 33-1 success in the Grade Two bumper in a campaign that yielded 13 winners.

The current season also started well for Woollacott, with Beer Goggles' Long Distance Hurdle success propelling him up the ante-post market for the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

That horse holds an entry in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday, while Lalor is vying for favouritism in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 10.

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust pledged full support to the Woollacott yard.

He said in a statement: "We are all devastated to hear the news about Richard Woollacott. It is simply tragic to lose someone so young, and who had so much to offer both the racing world and, more importantly, his young family.

"We are in contact with Richard's family and are doing all we can to support them and assist with on-going arrangements with his yard.

"Most importantly, though, our thoughts and condolences are with his family, friends and indeed all the horses who Richard cared for in his all-too-short time as a trainer, and who will no doubt miss him greatly."

The Major was declared to run for the Woollacott team at Exeter on Wednesday until it was abandoned. Woollacott's wife Kayley was announced by Weatherbys as his registered trainer.

The five-year-old's jockey Micheal Nolan tweeted: "Very shocked and saddened to hear such devastating news. Thank you for all the opportunities and the great memories together. RIP my friend."

Trainer Oliver Sherwood recalled speaking to Woollacott after his Newbury triumph.

The Upper Lambourn handler said: "It's just horrendous. I don't know the full implications, but my sympathies go out to all the family.

"I only spoke to him after Newbury. It's horrible. It puts all life in perspective."

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