The racing world has been left saddened and shocked by the death of Devon trainer Richard Woollacott aged just 40.

A statement released by the South Molton yard this morning (Tuesday, 23 January) read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Richard this morning. May we ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this most difficult time.”

Richard, whose wife Kayley trains point-to-pointers, had been sending out runners under Rules since 2008 and had achieved a total of 60 winners, including the Grade Two bumper at Aintree with Lalor in April. He was also a former Horse & Hound point-to-point columnist.

Most recently, champion jockey Richard Johnson had steered the trainer’s stable star, Beer Goggles, to victory in the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in December, beating Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack.

Many condolences from racing figures have been shared on social media today.

Daryl Jacob, who rode a total of 16 winners for the trainer, tweeted: “RIP my great friend, we started together on the pointing field, shared so many great days on and of the course, I will miss you so much, god bless you.”

TV presenter Luke Harvey told At The Races: “He was a very popular man and always had a smile on his face — he will be sorely missed.”

Ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls tweeted: “Myself and all of Team Ditcheat are saddened to learn of the passing of Richard Woollacott. A top-class man and a top-class trainer, he will be much missed by so many. Our thoughts are with his family at this toughest of times.”

Worcestershire trainer David Dennis also said: “Condolences to Richard Woollacott’s family at this difficult time — a very talented horseman who I’ve known and respected in the West Country for many years. A tragic loss to our sport.”

Beer Goggles is entered for the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday (27 January).