The top 5 trainers to follow at the Cheltenham Festival

Features | 7th March 2018

For many trainers, a single winner at The Cheltenham Festival is enough to see career aspirations fulfilled and dreams realised. However, year after year there are a masterful group of top trainers who seem to always have strong contenders for many of the big Grade One races.

Such is the prestige of winning a race at the Cotswold track that only the very best horses are crowned champions, with elite training alongside natural ability needed just to be in the reckoning.

So if you’re on the lookout for a horse to cheer on during The Cheltenham Festival, you won’t go wrong following this lot.


Nicky Henderson

Total Cheltenham Festival winners: 58

Biggest hopes in 2018: Buveur D’Air, Apples Shakira, My Tent Or Yours, Altior and Might Bite

icky Henderson, the most successful Cheltenham Festival trainer to date, and the Seven Barrows maestro will be looking to build on his 58 previous wins with a good looking portfolio of supreme jumpers set to line up at the 2018 Festival.

Recently he has had the likes of Bobs Worth, Long Run and, of course, Sprinter Sacre to call upon, but Henderson’s roll call of Cheltenham winners stretches back to 1985.

This year, Nicky Henderson is looking to create more Festival history at Cheltenham as he eyes an unprecedented treble in the three most prestigious races of the meeting with Altior, Buveur D’Air and Might Bite.

No trainer has ever landed the Unibet Champion Hurdle, Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same year but Henderson has the favourites for all three races.

Elsewhere, My Tent Or Yours and Apples Shakira also have strong chances in the Champion Hurdle and JCB Triumph Hurdle respectively.

Colin Tizzard

Total Cheltenham Festival Winners: 5

Biggest hopes in 2018: Elegant Escape, Finian’s Oscar, Native River and Cue Card

The British trainer is probably best known for training fan favourites Cue Card and Thistlecrack.

Cue Card providing memorable Festival victories in the 2010 Champion Bumper and the 2014 Ryanair Chase whilst most recently Thistlecrack came out on top of a challenging field in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle.

Tizzard’s best chance for a winner in 2018 comes in the form of Native River who runs against Henderson’s Might Bite in the Timco Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Multiple Grade One winner Finian’s Oscar and Elegant Escape shouldn’t be underestimated in the JLT Novices’ Chase and the RSA Novices Chase if given the go ahead.

Willie Mullins

Total Cheltenham Festival winners: 54

Biggest hopes in 2018: Faugheen, Getabird, Footpad, Un De Sceax and Douvan

One of the stars of The Festival is Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins, who along with stable jockey Ruby Walsh have taken home plenty of prizes at the meeting over the years.

Mullins has saddled a number of Festival winners over the past decade or so and we can expect him to be a major player in March once again as he plans on bringing an army of top class prospects over from Ireland.

The Irish trainer will be hoping to carry some of last year’s form over. After enduring 25 consecutive Festival losers he bagged 4 winners on the second day of last year’s Festival. YorkHill, Un De Sceax, Nicholas Canyon and Lets Dance coming home for the Closutton team.

This year, Mullins boasts a whole host of worthy chances. Un De Sceax leads the Ryanair Chase market after putting in a thundering performance to take a historic third Clarence House.

Douvan, Mullins self-proclaimed ‘best horse’ will be a strong favourite in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase whilst the likes of Footpad, Faugheen and Getabird represent good chances elsewhere.

Gordon Elliott

Total Cheltenham Festival Winners: 14

Biggest hopes in 2018: Dounikos, Apple’s Jade and Samcro

Having pinched the Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award from Mullins last year, Elliott, based out of County Meath, Ireland will be hoping to seriously challenge his fellow countryman Mullins at this year’s Festival bringing over some fancied horses of his own.

Gordon Elliott, has a total of 14 Festival winners since becoming a trainer in 2007. The most notable of these was Don Cossack, winner of the 2016 Gold Cup.

In 2018, Elliott saddles big novice hurdle hope and Irish banker Samcro in the Ballymore.

Elliott’s other chances comes in the form of 6 year old mare Apple’s Jade whose record of 10 wins from 14 races, including six Grade One’s make her a strong favourite in the Grade 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and Dounikos who is yet to take on the Cheltenham fences.

Last year’s leading Festival trainer will hope that he can produce the goods once again and win the trainers’ title.

Paul Nicholls

Total Cheltenham Festival winners: 41

Biggest hopes in 2018: Black Corton, Politologue and Danny Kirwan

Unsurprisingly, 10-time Champion Trainer Nicholls appears on this list. Only bettered by Henderson and Mullins, Nicholls has had his fair share of winners at the Gloucestershire course.

Best known for training racing legends like Denman and Kauto Star, Nicholls comes into 2018 with a slightly lesser known cast.

Nicholls’ 2018 fancies will surely be helped by the continued improvement of star female jockey Bryony Frost. Black Corton won well last time out at Ascot and looks set to be in contention for the RSA Novices’ Chase.

Whilst Politologue has the unenviable task of taking on Henderson hot shot Altior who looks set to add to his 12 consecutive wins in this year’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The final member of the Ditcheat yard to follow is Danny Kirwan who has every chance of competing with the market leaders in this year’s Champion Bumper.