TRIBUTES have been paid to legendary South Wales trainer and former steelworker Dai Burchell, who had a special relationship with Chepstow Racecourse.

In the tradition of Dreamhorse, the winner of more than 430 races thought nothing of spending just a few hundred pounds on horses nobody wanted, before turning them into winners on his hillside yard near Ebbw Vale.

Dai was honoured with a Welsh Racing Lifetime Achievement award at a glittering event at the racecourse in 2018, and after retiring from training at the start of 2022 at the ripe old age of 85, he was further honoured with a race run in his name.

Leaving his steelworking job in his mid 30s to set up as a trainer, Dai’s career stretched from ‘flapping races’ run outside Jockey Club rules in the 1950s to a final winner with Good Impression at Uttoxeter on January 29, 2022.

Chepstow Racecourse posted on Sunday: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of former trainer Dai Burchell at the age of 87 - a great character in Welsh racing. RIP. We named a race to mark his retirement in 2022 (the Happy Retirement Dai Burchell Novices’ Hurdle) and Dai was photographed afterwards with winning jockey Paddy Brennan. Our thoughts are with Ruth and his family.”

Jockey Ellis Collier, who rode Good Impression to victory, posted: “Terribly sad to hear the passing of Dai Burchell, true gentleman.”

Trainer Evan Williams added: “He was somebody who all of us in Wales have known and respected for a long time. He forged a living out of a hillside where many of us would have struggled to do anything, let alone what he achieved.

“He was a tough and uncompromising character but we all had great respect for him and what he was able to do.”

In the 1980s, he famously travelled to Perth with four horses and won with three of them – Hot Company, Carrols Grove and Gay Ruffian, while Sea Express finished second.

In an interview with the Racing Post in 2022, Burchell cited Kilsyth, bought for £500 at Doncaster sales, as his most impressive purchase after he went on to win six times.

Dai said: “I used to like going to Ascot sales...

“We used to target people we thought wouldn’t get their horses fit, and when they had one in the sale we’d be there looking for him.”

Burchell is survived by his wife Ruth and five children.