Followers and competitors from point-to-pointing and racing came together on Sunday at the Parish Church of St Mary (above), Bishops Nympton in Devon, for the funeral of Richard Woollacott.
The mourners were led by his widow, Kayley, 12-year-old children Archie and Mary, parents Denis and Carol and sister Marie – his youngest daughter, toddler Bella, stayed at home. Mary read a poem to the packed congregation, in which she said there were "not enough words to describe the loss" and "Dad will always be looking down on us".
A tribute to her father, 40, whose body was found at his family farm last month, was read by his close friend and ever-present ally at the races, Neil McClean, whose account of Woollacott's life revealed that at West Buckland school he became known in rugby circles as "the smallest guy off the field, but the biggest on the pitch".
McClean said a childhood love of ponies and hunting became a desire for racing after a trip to Ireland for work experience with cattle turned into an interest in thoroughbreds kept on a nearby farm. His plan to stay in Ireland to further that passion ended when his parents bought Miss Pernickety for their son to ride in points, and from that sprang an association with pointing and racing that led to the top in 2010, when he became Fuller's British men's champion with 40 winners. The pointing yard which he ran sent out 34 winners that same season, and two years later Woollacott took out a trainer's licence, which peaked with Grade Two victories at Aintree and Newbury last year.
McClean ended by saying Woollacott would always be remembered for his cheery smile and would never be forgotten.
The service was conducted by vicar Alastair Foreman, who said it was a tribute to Woollacott that so many had come to say farewell – some 300 people were unable to find places inside the packed church, but remained outside despite biting cold – and he urged that no one "should leave this church with any sense of remorse or blame" for the loss.
Among mourners were former point-to-point riders Tigga Barnes and Mark Shears, who joined the coffin-bearers, ex-national champions Polly Gundry and Ashley Farrant, and numerous licensed trainers and professional and ex-professional jockeys, including Woollacott's close friend Daryl Jacob. Point-to-Point Authority Board members Jeremy Barber, Alan Hill and Robert Killen were present, as were racehorse owners John and Floss Symes, whose good horse Whizzaar was said by Woollacott to be the best he rode. A photograph of the pair, jumping a fence at Aintree in the Fox Hunters' Chase, illuminated the back page of the order of service, and was among photographs placed on the coffin.
Donations were given to The Injured Jockeys' Fund and the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.