Bob Champion has paid tribute to Nick Embiricos, owner of Grand National winner Aldaniti, who has died, aged 81.
Embiricos showed tremendous patience to horse and rider, who both overcame life-threatening problems to win the world’s greatest steeplechase in 1981.
After that fairytale triumph, Embiricos helped establish the Bob Champion Cancer Trust and was chairman for many years.
The charity was set up to put to good use generous donations following the jockey’s remarkable recovery from cancer that enabled him to return to the saddle and fulfil his dream of winning the Grand National on the injury-plagued Aldaniti, who was trained by Josh Gifford.
“Nick and his wife Velda were fantastic owners. I rode some really nice horses for them over the years. Most of all, the horse had to come first, which was nice. Their horses were given masses of time to recover,” Champion told Press Association Sport.
“Aldaniti had a load of ability, but he had so many problems. When he broke down the last time the vets did say put him down, but Nick and Velda said ‘no way’. I had said I thought he’d win a National one day.
“They were terrific with him. He was in a stable for six months in plaster and he had to be a terrific patient. And they did all the road work before he went back into training. They always use to have their horses at home for the summer and they did a fantastic job.
“Nick was instrumental in my cancer trust. When I won the National, people sent their winnings to the Royal Marsden Hospital.
“Nick and Professor Peckham (cancer physician) thought it would be a good idea to do something with the money because there was quite a lot sent in. That’s how it all started.
“Without Nick’s perseverance it would have gone nowhere. He was chairman for many years until a couple of years ago.
“Basically, it was all down to his hard work. He was a very hands-on chairman.
“I owe an awful to him.”
A statement from the Bob Champion Cancer Trust on Twitter read: “It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Nick Embiricos.
“Owner of Aldaniti and the force behind the Trust, he was a hands-on chairman for over 20 years whose determination and spirit allowed us to get to where we are today!
“Our thoughts are with his family.”