Death of trainer Swinbank at the age of 72
The racing community has been left in shock following the unexpected death of top dual-purpose trainer Alan Swinbank on Wednesday. He was 72.
Swinbank made his mark on the Flat and over jumps during a training career that garnered nearly 800 domestic winners.
He also enjoyed notable success internationally thanks to the exploits of Collier Hill, who won 15 races in eight countries including at the highest level in the Irish St Leger, Canadian International and Hong Kong Vase.
Assistant and partner Sally Haynes said on Thursday: "He was a hard man but he was very fair and hard-working. I know he was an awkward devil at times but he loved his job and was good at it. He always loved horses and had a decent eye for a horse."
Born in Sedgefield, Swinbank came from farming stock and was involved in horses all his life. He had horses in training with the late Arthur Stephenson, and rode and trained in the pointing field.
His first winner as a trainer under rules was The Froddler in a hunter chase at Sedgefield in 1982.
Based in Melsonby, North Yorkshire, 2001 was his first year with a public licence and he became renowned for his ability to transform talented jumps horses into Group performers on the Flat, none more so than Collier Hill.
Bought cheaply by Swinbank, who also acted as a bloodstock agent, the globetrotting star went on to plunder more than £2.3 million in prize-money.
Haynes added: "We had a hell of a time with Collier Hill. He was a fantastic horse and when we started going abroad he loved it - he was like a human being going on his holidays. Alan was always hoping for another Collier Hill, but you have to have a lot go through your hands before you find another like that."
Other stable stars included 2006 Cambridgeshire winner Formal Decree, who was then bought by Godolphin, Turbo Linn, who won a Listed bumper at Aintree in 2007 before going on to land the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks later that year, and popular dual-purpose performer Alfie Flits.
Swinbank was expected to be at York on Wednesday to oversee his runner Busy Street, who finished 13th of 16 in the 1m4f handicap, and there was concern when he did not appear at the track. His final winner proved to be at Hamilton on May 7, when Genres won the 1m3f handicap under Joe Fanning.
Jockey Ben Curtis, who had struck up a profitable partnership with Swinbank in recent years, posted a message on Twitter, which read: "I'm shocked and devastated to hear of the passing of Alan Swinbank. We had some great days together, 50-plus winners and 300-plus rides. I will be forever grateful to him for supporting me when I first arrived in the UK. Condolences to Sally, family and all the team. Rest In Peace Swinny."
Tributes flowed on social media, with many trainers, jockeys and industry figures posting their memories, including Ralph Beckett, who tweeted: "RIP Alan Swinbank. Did the trainers' course with him, and from then on he used to tell folk we were at school together. #topman."
Trainer Jonjo O'Neill tweeted: "Very sad to hear Alan Swinbank has died. A good friend and brilliant trainer. His family are in our thoughts."
Swinbank, who married twice, is survived by sons Julian and AJ, daughter Michelle and four grandchildren.
Funeral details will be released at a later date.