Malton came to a standstill yesterday as the historic racing centre paid its respects to Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer Jimmy FitzGerald, who died last week following a long illness, aged 69.

Around 800 mourners gathered at St Mary's Priory Church in Old Malton for the funeral of the man who sent out over 1,200 winners from his Norton Grange stables.

Racing heroes past and present attended the service of thanksgiving for the life of one of the most colourful and respected characters the sport has known.

FitzGerald handed over the reins of his stables to his son Tim at the end of February 2003 after a training career which included many high-profile victories over jumps and on the Flat.

He enjoyed six Cheltenham Festival winners, while other notable successes over jumps included the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup with Galway Blaze and two Scottish Grand Nationals with Androma.

His 350 winners on the level included the Princess Of Wales's Stakes and the Ebor with Sapience, and the Cesarewitch twice with Trainglot and Kayudee.

Kieren Fallon, who joined FitzGerald as an apprentice when he came over from his native Ireland in 1988, was in the congregation in the packed church.

FitzGerald, regarded by Fallon as ''like a father figure'', was instrumental in guiding the early career of the six-times champion Flat jockey.

Other leading racing figures to have emerged from the Norton Grange academy were also at the service.

They included Mark Dwyer, who enjoyed numerous big-race successes over jumps in his role as stable jockey, Ronnie O'Leary, Peter Niven and Richard Fahey.

Also present were National Hunt racing stalwarts Josh Gifford, Nicky Henderson, David Mould, Gerry Scott, Peter Easterby and Tommy Stack, as well as virtually every trainer in Malton.