The Cheltenham Festival is renowned for being one of the most prestigious events in global horse racing. Racing fans worldwide consider it the pinnacle of jumps racing, as it brings together the finest steeplechasers, stayers, jockeys, and trainers.
The Cheltenham Festival first reared its head in 1861, when the National Hunt Chase was staged here. However, it wasn’t until 1911 that the “festival” as we know it today would run at the current Prestbury Park racecourse.
The modern-day festival stages some of the most iconic Group 1 races that we know and love today, including the Stayers’ Hurdle, the Gold Cup, and the Champion Hurdle.
Undoubtedly, the Gold Cup is the headline race of the four-day festival, and it captures the imagination of the public, including casual punters.
Analysts and tipsters scour the racing and betting data from OddsChecker each year to try and find the next Gold Cup winner. One aspect that many tipsters look for is horses trained by individuals with known form for success around Prestbury Park.
Over the decades, a number of National Hunt trainers have graced the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham, but none more so than the following most successful trainers of all time.
Willie Mullins: the undisputed ‘GOAT’ of Cheltenham Festival
Willie Mullins is comfortably the most successful trainer of winning horses at the Cheltenham Festival. Before this year’s festival, Mullins had already registered 88 victories around Prestbury Park, including back-to-back Boodles Gold Cup wins in 2019 and 2020 with Al Boum Photo.
As of this year’s festival, Mullins has followed that up with a win in the Champion Chase with Energumene and three other victories going into the final day.
The 66-year-old Irishman has been training since 1988 and was a successful amateur jockey, becoming the six-time amateur champion jockey in his native Ireland.
British horseracing trainer, Nicky Henderson, is another hugely successful individual at Cheltenham Festival. Henderson has ten years’ training experience on Willie Mullins and a string of iconic wins at the festival, including two victories in the 2011 and 2013 Gold Cups.
The Champion Hurdle has long been a favourite of Henderson, with no less than nine victories in this race, including this year, with the unbeatable Constitution Hill displaying his class throughout.
In the last ten years, Henderson has 26 winners to his name, an average of almost three winners yearly.
National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls has enjoyed more than 3,000 career wins over fences and is comfortably one of the most successful trainers of his generation. He’s also enjoyed significant success at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Gold Cup four times. Nicholls enjoyed a golden era of Gold Cup prospects in the late 2000s, winning this race three years running between 2007 and 2009.
Nicholls also managed to land three of the UK’s most iconic jump races in the same festival – the Gold Cup, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 1999.
In the last decade, wins have been a little harder to come by, with just 14 victories in the last ten festivals prior to 2023.
The retired Fulke Walwyn is listed as the fourth most successful Cheltenham Festival trainer of all time. Like Nicholls, Walwyn enjoyed significant success in the Gold Cup, winning no fewer than four Gold Cups in his time. Walwyn even scooped the Champion Trainer prize five times at the festival.
With 40 victories to his name at Cheltenham, Walwyn’s contribution to the festival was immortalised with the formation of the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup race, open to amateur jockeys only.
A further nod should go to Irish trainer Gordon Elliott, one of Cheltenham’s most talked about trainers in the last decade. Only Willie Mullins has surpassed Elliott’s 32 festival wins in the last ten years, and Elliott is even hotly tipped to beat Walwyn’s record in the coming years.
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