For those in the training game, it is the Cheltenham Festival that affords some of the most prestigious races that the sport has to offer.
It’s no coincidence that the leading performers tend to do so well at the meeting, spending all year targeting their finest horses at the March showpiece and tailoring their training specifically to the unique undulations and twists and turns of the Prestbury Park track.
Historically, from a betting perspective, you can’t go far wrong when backing horses from the likes of Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson, although these trainers tend to have their favoured disciplines, be it novice chasing, staying and so on.
In this article, we will reveal the most successful trainers of all-time at the Cheltenham Festival, and how you can make your new-found knowledge count from a betting perspective.
Trainers with the Most Wins
As mentioned, the great and the good of UK and Irish racing have all saddled winners at the Cheltenham Festival, but some have enjoyed more success than others on the hallowed Prestbury Park turf.
Correct as of the conclusion of the 2023 edition, here’s a list of the top 10 most prolific trainers at the Cheltenham Festival:
Cheltenham Festival All Time Leading Trainers
As you can see, there clear daylight at the top between Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson, who can both be labelled in the ‘veteran’ category having trained their first runners at the Festival back in the 1990s.
Gordon Elliott, a relative rookie having sent his first horse to Cheltenham in 2011, is climbing the leaderboard rapidly, and it is likely that he will overtake Fulke Walwyn in the coming years having surpassed Martin Pipe in 2023.
And when it comes to placing your Cheltenham Festival bets, don’t forget some of the up-and-coming trainers that are saddling big winners just not necessarily in great quality. The likes of Henry de Bromhead, Andrew Gemmell and Rebecca Curtis have come up with the goods for their backers in recent times.
The Festival’s Leading Trainer Award
While there has been an unwritten contest among trainers to saddle more winners than their rivals at the meeting, this wasn’t formalised until 1997 when an award was introduced for the trainer who enjoyed more wins than any other.
Where two or more trainers are tied with the same number of winners, places are then taken into consideration – as was the case in 2020 when Willie Mullins pipped Gordon Elliott to the post despite both training seven winners.
Following the dominance of Paul Nicholls – courtesy of the incomparable Denman and Kauto Star – in the noughties, the power in the leading trainer stakes has shifted in recent times, with the award monopolised by just three men: since 2010, there have been only three winners in Mullins (x10), Elliott (x2) and Henderson (x2).
The overall leaderboard, dating back to ’97, is as follows:
Cheltenham Festival Leading Trainer Awards
|1||Willie Mullins||10-time champion|
|2||Paul Nicholls||6-time champion|
|3||Nicky Henderson||3-time champion|
|4||Martin Pipe||3-time champion|
|5||Gordon Elliott||2-time champion|
|6||Howard Johnson||1-time champion|
|7||Jonjo O’Neill||1-time champion|
Betting on the Leading Trainer
As the next edition of the Cheltenham Festival draws near, the chances are that you will start drawing up a shortlist of horses that you will be backing on each day.
There are plenty of other betting markets to consider too, and you might not know that with some bookmakers you can actually have a flutter on the Leading Trainer category.
And digging down even deeper, you can wager on who you think will be the Top UK or Top Irish Trainer, and even on which trainer you think will win a specific race – in the Gold Cup, for example, the leading yards will declare more than one runner as they attempt to claim the Festival’s most glittering prize.
So can anyone defeat the likes of Mullins, Elliot and Henderson, or will these most prolific Cheltenham Festival trainers prevail again?
Cheltenham Festival Leading Trainer – 1980 to 2023
|2001||Cheltenham Festival Cancelled|