Adam Nicol was thrilled to open his account as a trainer with just his third runner as Wise Eagle claimed a narrow victory at Newcastle.
The 31-year-old called time on his riding career last spring after suffering a string of serious injuries, including a broken hand and a badly broken leg, before fracturing vertebrae in his back in a heavy fall at Sedgefield on Boxing Day of 2019.
Despite the setbacks, Nicol enjoyed several big-race triumphs aboard Phil Kirby’s star mare Lady Buttons, steering her to 12 of 15 victories overall.
Reflecting on decision to quit the saddle, Nicol said: “I decided to call it a day during the first lockdown last year.
“I just felt that having had so many injuries during the previous couple of years, enough was enough.
“In this game, as a jockey, the longer you’re out, the sooner you’re forgotten.
“I rode at Market Rasen not long before the lockdown and I just felt it would be good to leave on my terms.
“I managed to come back from every injury and I was delighted with how my riding career went. A career after being a jockey is a lot longer than being a jockey, so when the opportunity to came up to start training, I took it.”
Nicol had previously sent out just two runners, with Velkera pulling up at Hexham last month before Wise Eagle outran odds of 66-1 to finish second on his hurdling debut at Catterick less than a week later.
Switching back to the level on a ‘jumpers bumpers’ card at Gosforth Park, Wise Eagle was a 7-1 shot in the hands of Craig Nichol, and displayed a willing attitude to see off the strong-travelling Dear Sire by a short head.
Nicol added: “I’m delighted – I couldn’t have asked for a better start. We’ve got three horses in training – my mum owns the yard in Seahouses in Northumberland. I’ve had four stables and the plan is to have another four, but we’re just going to stay small.
“This horse ran a blinder at Catterick. I’m not sure what happened, but he came back with a big hematoma on his leg, so I thought he ran very well considering. We’ve had him in the sea since then, which has helped with the hematoma.
“The owners were asking what to expect today. You can get some strange results in these jumpers bumpers, but I just said to them that he’d won at Lingfield, so at least we knew he handled a synthetic surface and he was fit enough.
“We’ll see how he is, but we might go back over hurdles at Catterick on February 5 or Musselburgh on February 7. There’s no mad panic.”
Despite coming up narrowly short aboard Dear Sire, champion jockey Brian Hughes still enjoyed a treble on the card.
Hughes first struck gold aboard the Gillian Boanas-trained Susie Mac (3-1), who was making it third time lucky off the back of a 576-day absence, having finished second twice in 2019 when trained by Kevin Ryan.
He doubled up half an hour later on Donald McCain’s 4-1 chance Presentandcounting, before completing his hat-trick aboard the Cholmondeley-based trainer’s Armattiekan (6-1) in the final race.