MALTON'S Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer Malcolm Jefferson has died aged 71 following a long illness.

His daughter Ruth confirmed the news of his death this morning, with the licence now switched to her name and her first runners set to be at Wetherby tomorrow.

"He died this morning, we're all very sad," she said. "We'd been in the process of swapping the licence and that has all gone through now."

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

His first Cheltenham Festival winner came through Tindari in the Pertemps Final in 1994 before he claimed the Champion Bumper with Dato Star, who later became a top-class hurdler, in 1995.

Jefferson achieved a notable double in 2012 when Cape Tribulation and Attaglance won at both Cheltenham and the Grand National meeting.

"He was always good with young people, he kick-started a lot of careers when you look back, a lot of jockeys," said Ruth Jefferson.

"He gave everybody a chance, it was up to them to then take it. He trained four Cheltenham Festival winners and while he was never a fashionable trainer, he was a very good one.

"What he did was buy inexpensive horses who won races, not many left him and went and won for other people. He was very good at placing them.

"If a horse was capable of winning races, they generally won for him. He would never rush a horse, he always said "let the horse come to you".

"We've got some lovely horses now and it's a shame he won't see where they end up, the likes of Cloudy Dream, Mount Mews and Waiting Patiently.

"He enjoyed watching Waiting Patiently and Black Ivory win the other week, they were his last two winners and he was thrilled.

"He was also a successful breeder, he trained for a lot of owner/breeders who did well too."

Other notable successes came with Cape Tribulation in the Cotswold Chase (2013), Cyrus Darius in the Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree (2015), According To Pete won the Fixed Brush Hurdle and Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock, as well as the Rowland Meyrick, while Dato Star won the Fighting Fifth twice (1998 and 99) and the Christmas Hurdle (2000).

Lorcan Wyer was Dato Star's regular partner and said: "It's incredibly sad news and my heart goes out to all his family. May he rest in peace.

"Malcolm was a wonderful man and a fantastic trainer. He was an outstanding judge of a horse. He didn't necessarily always follow pedigrees – he was very instinctive.

"His horses are always fantastically well turned out, as was he."

He added: "Dato Star was a very good horse, obviously, but he wasn't always easy to train. He was a little bit fragile and a little bit delicate and Malcolm managed him so well and got it right with him so many times."

In recent years Brian Hughes had struck up a lucrative partnership with the stable.

He said: "We're all devastated really. As everyone knows, his health has been deteriorating for a while, but it's still a very sad day.

"He's suffered for the last year, but he's still been out on the gallops most mornings and always kept his head up and got on with the job.

"He's been a great trainer, a great man with young horses and great to ride for.

"I'll never be able to repay him for everything he's done for me and my career."

Asked about highlights, he said: "Obviously we've had the likes of Waiting Patiently, Cloudy Dream, Cyrus Darius and Oscar Rock, but I suppose one of the days that stands out was Double W's winning at Aintree last year.

"He's a horse Malcolm bought as a three-year-old for very little money and he'd minded him as a young horse.

"Malcolm hadn't been well, so for him to go and win a big race in Aintree was great."

The British Horseracing Authority issued a statement that read: "We are deeply saddened to hear of Malcolm's passing. His experienced and guiding hand has benefited not only the horses and staff in his care, but the racing community in Malton and the north for many years.

"We have been in contact with Malcolm's family for some time as his health deteriorated and will continue to help them in any way they require.

"First and foremost, though, our condolences are with Malcolm's family, friends and colleagues both in the north and further afield. We will remember him not only as a brilliant trainer , but also a warm and generous man."

Denis O'Regan, now based back in Ireland, struck up a good relationship with Cape Tribulation and was on board for his famous Cheltenham and Aintree double.

He tweeted: "Very sad to hear Malcolm Jefferson has passed away. Great trainer and we shared some great days. He will be sadly missed. #capetribulation"

Jefferson leaves wife Sue and children Clare, Rachel, and Jo, as well as Ruth.