Tees Spirit proves an emotional Dash winner

Adrian Nicholls achieved the remarkable feat of both training and riding a winner of the Simpex Express ‘Dash’ Handicap as Tees Spirit made most to land the ultra-competitive sprint at Epsom in the hands of Barry McHugh.

Having ridden Rudi’s Pet to success for his father David ‘Dandy’ Nicholls in 2002, Tees Spirit’s victory continued the family’s long association with the race, with Nicholls senior being successful five times between 1997 and 2009.

Tees Spirit was away well under McHugh and quickly grabbed the stands rail from 6-1 favourite Live In The Dream and the four-year-old never left that spot as he remained prominent all the way to the line.

He dug deep where it mattered most to prevail by a head from 50-1 shot Mountain Peak, who at one stage appeared the most likely winner of a typically rough renewal of this helter-skelter five-furlong event.

The game performance of the 10-1 winner was made even more special as it came on the five-year anniversary of the death of Nicholls’ father.

Nicholls said: “My old man loved it down here and I was lucky enough to win one for him. At the start of every year, he would always try to plan them out.

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“When this lad won at Beverley, Baz (McHugh) was quite keen to go to Newcastle for the Gosforth Park Cup. I was adamant, especially after Nottingham, I was coming here.

“Everyone can see he is clearly improving. Baz has done an excellent job on him and Claire, my wife, rides him out and we are a small team.

“To come down here on a Derby day and win, I took it for granted when I was lucky enough – I wasn’t the best of riders – to ride the old man’s horses. I took it for granted riding these good horses, who are good horses. Now training them, I really appreciate what he actually did. He was a genius.”

He added: “It was five years ago to this day that he died, so it was quite poignant. I needed a little bit of help – I don’t know if anyone believes in all of that, but we’ve come down here and won and it is unbelievable.

“I always wanted to make him proud. To win a Dash, you can’t do much more. He always used to say it is our kind of Derby, as we never had any mile-and-a-half horses.”

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