TRIBUTES have been paid to a leading horseracing trainer Malcolm Jefferson, who has died following a long illness.

Warm tributes to the 71-year-old poured in from the racing community and beyond, who died surrounded by his wife Sue and children Clare, Rachel, Ruth and Jo at his side on Friday, following a long battle with cancer.

The Northern Echo: WINNER: Another of Malcolm Jefferson's horses, Robbing The Prey, ridden by Brian Hughes leading over flight of hurdles at Wetherby Racecourse

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WINNER: Another of Malcolm Jefferson's horses, Robbing The Prey, ridden by Brian Hughes leading over flight of hurdles at Wetherby Racecourse

His daughter, Ruth, has taken over the licence at Newstead Cottage Stables in Norton, North Yorkshire, where Mr Jefferson had many successes over a 37-year career - and her first runners are set to be at Wetherby today.

A family statement said: “We would like to thank everybody for the kindness and support they have given during recent months.”

Brought up in Cumbria, Mr Jefferson began his life in racing with the late Gordon Richards, before moving to North Yorkshire and taking out his licence in 1981.

On September 24 that year he had his first winner with Mark Edelson.

He had his first success at the Cheltenham Festival in 1994 and went on to have multiple Cheltenham winners.

He became the first British trainer to win the Champion Bumper at the Festival - with Dato Star in 1995.

Trainer Brendan Powell saying: "The knowledge that man had in his head regarding horses, you just cannot replace or buy."

Former jockey George Chaloner, who rode for Jefferson, tweeted: "The greatest man I have ever met.

"Malcolm Jefferson was more than just a boss, but a true friend. I owe everything to this man as without him I wouldn't have had a successful riding career nor become the man I am today. RIP Mr Jefferson."

Emma White, manager at Go Racing in Yorkshire, said: “He was one of Racing’s finest, a true horseman, a true gent."