Racing: Nicholson insists he is staying put

Jump giants split: Trainer dismisses reports that he too is on his way out, as former stable jockey goes his own way
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The Independent Online
IN THE rumour distillery of racing the most potent story in recent weeks has been that David Nicholson would soon be out of Jackdaws Castle and replaced by Oliver Sherwood. The Independent approached Sherwood several weeks ago and he swore "on his children's lives" there was no truth in suggestions he was leaving Rhonehurst, his Upper Lambourn base. It was a persuasive forfeit.

Sherwood was maintaining the line yesterday as the gossip gathered momentum. Ruby Walsh, the jockey leading the championship in Ireland, it was said, would be Sherwood's first signing. "If I had A Maguire, R Johnson and R Thornton, I wouldn't be looking anywhere else," the trainer said.

Nicholson concurred. "We will not be adding to the jockeys at Jackdaws Castle," he said. "We have Richard Johnson, Robert Thornton, Robert Massey, Ollie McPhail and Adrian [Maguire] - a strong side."

And world from Ireland also suggested Ruby would not be coming to town. "We have not been in contact with anyone," Ted Walsh, the jockey's father, said, "and I know the Duke and he would have given me a ring if anything was happening. There is absolutely nothing in it and I can assure you of that."

Oliver Sherwood too, it appears, will not be switching to a Gloucestershire postcode. "I can swear to you that I've not been approached by anyone," he said. "I haven't been approached by Colin Smith [the owner of Jackdaws Castle and Nicholson's employer] and, I understand, David Nicholson is in charge for the foreseeable future. People are just speculating. I've had owners ringing me up, asking me what's going on. If I was offered the job it would be an honour and I would think about it, but it would be a wrench to leave Rhonehurst."

Nicholson went on to deny he was on his way out, invoking an excremental adjective to describe reports which yesterday claimed Maguire had quit because of lack of public backing and that the jockey had become a pawn in the relationship between Smith and Nicholson. The trainer firmly denied that his own job was under threat. Nicholson insisted that he would stay at Jackdaws Castle for as long as he wanted.

Nicholson has not been out of the first two in the trainers' championship since he moved to Jackdaws Castle six years ago. Smith responded yesterday to the speculation about the yard which cost an estimated pounds 5m to construct. "I have heard the rumours concerning Ruby Walsh coming here but that is not in the equation at present," he said. "But if in the future David sits down and persuades me we need a retained jockey it will be discussed as usual. The stories stating that certain trainers would be coming here are all wrong. There is definitely nobody on the shortlist to replace David Nicholson. There is no secret here. I am happy with David, but if you say to me when is David retiring that is another question and I don't know. But I can state that we have agreed to discuss that as and when the matter arises."

Saturday's Ayr meeting must pass a 2.30pm inspection today. Part of the track is under water.

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