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Trainer in Focus – David Nicholls

David Nicholls (known in the racing fraternity as ‘Dandy’) has been labelled as the ‘King Of The Sprinters’, and has produced some exceptionally fast horses over the years. But is Nicholls a one trick pony? And does the assumption that he demonstrates a performance bias towards those horses running over sprint trips hold true?

In this article, we take a look at all aspects of Nicholls performance as a trainer, identifying any trends in the process.

2 Year Olds

Nicholls doesn’t have a large number of 2 year old debutants, but their record is profitable; 10/129 (7.75%) for a £24.75 LSP, giving an A/E of 1.38. The strike rate isn’t prolific, but his runners produce a profit and a positive A/E.

Second time out, Nicholls runners’ do moderately – 6/102 (5.88%) for £-55 loss, giving an A/E of 0.64. His 2 year olds actually do best when they are more experienced. Those juveniles who have had 5 runs or more are 22/94 (23.40%) with a further 22 places for a £42.23 LSP for an A/E of 1.57.

Common consensus is that Dandy Nicholls excels with his 2 year olds over the minimum trip, but whilst they do well, they actually perform best over 6f.

2 Year Olds by Distance

Distance (Furlongs)RunnersWinnersWin S/RP/L to SPA/E

*A/E denotes actual number of winners divided by expected number of winners. A figure over 1 represents good value, anything under 1 is poor value.

6f runners have a 17.02% strike rate, produce a huge £172.20 LSP and give an excellent A/E of 1.69.

Those racing over 7f+ have a moderate record, so punters are best sticking with the runners over 5/6f in all types of races.

Nicholls does very well with his juveniles at some of the top tracks:

2 Year Olds by Course

CourseRunnersWinnersWin S/RP/L to SPA/E

The races at Goodwood and Haydock are normally strong and therefore it seems like he sends his best ones there. Newcastle and Beverley are both tracks that would be fairly local to Nicholls’ base, and therefore an overall record of 0/48 in the last 10 years is quite surprising.

3 Year Olds

As he works on a limited budget and does not have many high profile owners, it is no surprise that Dandy Nicholls doesn’t have too many 3 year old debutants. His record with those that he does run, is modest; 2/42 (4.76%) for loss of £-14. A/E 0.85

Those who have run 3 times and are moving from maiden to handicap company also have a poor record; 1/35 for loss of £-22. A/E 0.44 – Nicholls clearly doesn’t worry too much about getting his horses lowly rated for their first foray into handicap company.

When he keeps his 3 year olds confined to their own age group in handicap company, Nicholls invariably does well, with his horses outperforming their odds in 9 of the 12 months of the year:

Runners in 3 Year Old Only Handicaps

MonthRunnersWinnersWin S/RP/L to SPA/E

His record in July-August is especially impressive; 30/134 (22.39%) for £76.88 LSP, giving an A/E of 1.87.

3 Year Old+

When looking at Dandy’s handicappers who did not win last time out based on the time they have had off the track, a few patterns emerge:

3 Year Old+ Non-Last Time Out Winners in Handicaps

Days Since Last RunRunnersWinnersWin S/RP/L to SPA/E

Those runners who return within a week do very well, winning at the highest percentage, producing a LSP and recording an A/E of 1.17 in the process.

In fact, horses turned out within 3 weeks all have a very solid record, especially in Class 5 company, where they are 62/445 (13.93%) for £102.86 LSP, giving an A/E of 1.32.

Horses off the track for longer generally have a lower strike rate, with the only time that Nicholls runners do poorly being when they are off for 91-150 days.


The common perception is that Nicholls runners do best over the shorter trips:

3 Year Old+ Handicappers by Distance

DistanceRunnersWinnersWin S/RP/L to SPA/E

The results validate this theory. Runners over 5-7f have much more runners, a higher strike rate and a positive A/E.

David Nicholls

Sellers & Claimers

Nicholls has a large number of runners in sellers and claimers. These races are typically where trainers can purchase and offload their lower grade horses.

In sellers, Nicholls overall record is 59/274 (21.53%) for a loss of £-24.02, giving an A/E of 1.17. When his runners are favourites in these contests, they do fantastically well; 36/70 (51.43%) for £26.48 LSP, giving an A/E of 1.38.

In claimers, his runners have an equally strong strike rate; 118/478 (24.69%) for £63.57 LSP, giving an A/E of 1.23. Nicholls runners really need respecting in both sellers and claimers.


  • Nicholls has a modest strike rate with his first time out 2 year olds, but they are profitable and represent value. They do poorly second time out.
  • His 2 year olds excel over 6f and are profitable for betting purposes.
  • 2 year old runners who have had 5+ starts do very well.
  • When Nicholls has runners at Goodwood and Haydock, they need respecting. He has nothad a 2 year old winner at Beverley or Newcastle in the last 10 years.
  • Nicholls 3 year olds have an average strike rate on debut and don’t do particularly well in their first handful of runs on the racecourse.
  • He has a superb record with 3 year olds in 3 year old only handicaps in July-August.
  • 3 Year old+ handicappers generally do best when turned out within 3 weeks (and especially within a week). They are very profitable when returning to the track off a short time frame in Class 5 company.
  • Nicholls runners do best over 5-7f and this is where he has the majority of his runners.
  • His strike rate in sellers and claimers is impressive and his runners always need respecting in these races – especially when strong in the market.