Nicky Henderson | Under Starters Orders

Features | 25th January 2022

Multiple champion trainer Nicky Henderson has been towards the top of the British Jump racing tree for nearly 40 years.

Name: Nicky Henderson

Born: 10th December, 1950

Career highlight: Winning a second Queen Mother Champion Chase with Sprinter Sacre in 2016 after heart and back issues had threatened to prematurely end his career.

Interesting fact: The Grand National remains one of the few top jumps races to elude Nicky. The closest he has come in the great Aintree race is second with Zongalero (1979) and The Tsarevich (1987).

Nicky Henderson and Sprinter Sacre
Nicky Henderson with Sprinter Sacre at his stables.

Since taking out his training licence in 1978 he has landed virtually every big jumping prize at least once. Only Irish trainer Willie Mullins has more Cheltenham Festival victories to his name.

He briefly worked in the City for a firm of stockbrokers but racing was always his passion. His father, Johnny, is credited with saving Cheltenham Racecoursewhere his son would enjoy so many great triumphs.

Having learned his trade combining riding as an amateur jockey with assisting eight‐times champion jumps trainer Fred Winter, it didn’t take Nicky long to make his mark from his base at Windsor House Stables in Lambourn.

Henderson’s first really good horse was the brilliant but fragile hurdler See You Then. He gave Nicky the first of his 70 Cheltenham Festival winners when landing the Champion Hurdle in 1985.

He would go on to win the same prize in each of the following two years to become, at that point, only the fourth 3-time Champion Hurdle winner. It’s a race that the 71‐year‐old has won on a record eight occasions. 

See You Then’s second Champion Hurdle victory in 1986 helped Nicky to the first of six Champion Trainer’s crowns. He’s retained his position at the top ever since thanks to some of the equine giants of jump racing.

A New Beginning 

In 1993, in a swap deal with Classic‐winning trainer Peter Walwyn, Nicky moved to the famous Seven Barrows yard high above Lambourn. The move helped him to strengthen his standing even more.

The winners continued to flow into the new millennium with the likes of Grade 1‐winning chaser Marlborough, Stayers’ Hurdle winner Bacchanal, Ladbrokes Trophy hero Trabolgan and Champion Hurdle victor Punjabi.

Despite heading into his 60s, Nicky has enjoyed a golden period from 2010.

Almost every year he churned out champions in a spell that will probably define his career with Long Run (2011) and Bobs Worth (2013) both claiming Cheltenham Gold Cup glory early in the decade.

Long Run, ridden by amateur jockey Sam Waley‐Cohen, twice won the King George (2010, 2012), while Might Bite (2017) also lifted Kempton’s Christmas cracker.

Finian’s Rainbow, Simonsig, Riverside Theatre, My Tent Or Yours and Oscar Whisky were other top class stars to hone their talents under Nicky’s expert guidance.


Nicky Henderson and Bobs Worth
Bobs Worth and trainer Nicky Henderson after winning The Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2013


Then there’s Sprinter Sacre. It’s hard to imagine any more love between a horse and his trainer. The horse dubbed the “Black Airplane” dominated the scene with ten straight victories following his successful chase debut in 2011.

His big‐race haul included a breath‐taking 19‐length defeat of previous winner Sizing Europe in the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase, but heart problems stopped him in his tracks.

The way Nicky nursed Sprinter Sacre back to form to win his second Champion Chase three years later was testament to his genius.

When the great horse retired he was quickly replaced by another true two‐mile superstar in the shape of Altior.

When he bowed out last year having also won two Champions Chases, as well as breaking the record for successive victories by a jumps horse when winning 19 races on the bounce, a potential replacement had already been identified from inside the confines of Seven Barrows.

That horse, Shishkin, has rapidly become the darling of British National Hunt fans. He’s unbeaten in nine races since falling on his hurdles debut and he will attempt to give Nicky a seventh Queen Mother Champion Chase victory to add to his effortless win in the Arkle Trophy at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Like his horses, Nicky shows no sign of slowing down. His recognition for a lifetime of service to horseracing came in 2020 when he was awarded an OBE.