UK trainer Richard Woollacott dies aged 40

 UK racing has been shocked by the news that Devon trainer Richard Woollacott, who landed his most high-profile success with Beer Goggles in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month, has died aged 40.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the South Molton yard said: "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."

Woollacott had been training since 2008 and had sent out 60 winners including two at Grade 2 level, with Lalor winning Aintree's Champion Bumper in April.

Before branching out into training under rules, he had been a successful point-to-point rider, winning the Devon & Cornwall championship nine times and the national title in 2010. Wife Kayley took over training the yard's pointers as her husband's jumps yard grew.

Champion jockey Richard Johnson, who rode Lalor and Beer Goggles to their biggest successes, said: "It's a massive shock. I've been lucky to have a couple of nice winners for Richard but I've known him since his point-to-point days and he was a trainer who worked very hard and did the job well.

"He was a lovely fellow to have around and always good fun. He always had a smile on his face at the races and it's just very sad. He hadn't got many horses but had just started to get a couple of nice ones and everyone is in shock. My thoughts are with his young family and I'm deeply saddened."

BHA chief executive Nick Rust 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."

Several racing figures offered their condolences on social media. Daryl Jacob, who with 16 successes rode more for Woollacott than any other jockey, tweeted: "RIP my great friend, we started together on the pointing field, shared so many great days on and off the course, I will miss you so much, god bless you."

Ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls praised "a top-class man and a top-class trainer", while Nicky Henderson described the news as "absolutely tragic".

In a statement, Devon & Cornwall Police reported: "Police were notified at around 10.30pm 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."

The BHA has granted Kayley Woollacott a temporary licence to train and confirmed that The Major, who is entered in a maiden hurdle at Exeter on Wednesday, will run in her name.