Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls  Paul Nicholls has won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship ten times and Leading Trainer Award at the Cheltenham Festival six times. Since 2009, Nicholls has had to play second fiddle to the likes of Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott at the Gloucestershire course, but victories for Pacha Du Polder in the Foxhunter Challenge Cup and Le Prezien in the Grand Annual Challenge Cup in 2018 took his career total to 43 Festival winners. Consequently, despite some lean years, he remains the third most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, behind only Mullins, with 61 wins, and Henderson, with 60.

 

Nicholls saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Flagship Uberalles, in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 1999 and wasted no time in adding his second, and third, Call Equiname in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and See More Business in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Those three winners were sufficient to win him his first Leading Trainer Award and he won again five years later, when Azertyuiop in the Queen Mother Champion Chase was one of four winners for the yard.

 

Nicholls won again in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, with three, four, three and five winners, respectively. In 2007, he saddled Denman to win the RSA Chase and Kauto Star to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in 2008, Master Minded to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Denman to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and, in 2009, Master Minded to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase again, Big Buck’s to win the Stayers’ Hurdle and Kauto Star to regain his crown in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Of course, Big Buck’s would go on to win the next three renewals of the Stayers’ Hurdle and was inducted into the Cheltenham Hall of Fame in 2018.

Barry Geraghty

Barry Geraghty  Notwithstanding the phenomenal record of compatriot Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty remains the second most successful jockey in the history of the Cheltenham Festival with an impressive tally of 36 winners. The first of them was Moscow Flyer, trained by Jessica Harrington, in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2002 and he rode at least one winner at every Cheltenham Festival for the next 14 years. In that period, he won each of the ‘championship’ races – Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup – at least twice and was crowned leading jockey at the Festival twice, in 2003 and 2012.

 

He won the Champion Hurdle twice, on Punjabi in 2009 and Jezki in 2014, the Queen Mother Champion Chase five times, on Moscow Flyer in 2003 and 2005, Big Zeb in 2010, Finian’s Rainbow in 2012 and Sprinter Sacre in 2013, the Stayers’ Hurdle twice, on Iris’s Gift in 2004 and More Of That in 2014 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, on Kicking King in 2005 and Bobs Worth 2013. He also won the Arkle Challenge Trophy five times and the Triumph Hurdle four times.

 

Following the retirement of Sir Anthony McCoy in April, 2015, Geraghty became the retained rider for the most successful owner ever at the Cheltenham Festival, John Patrick “J.P.” McManus, and the following season carried his familiar green and gold colours to victory aboard Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph Hurdle. Geraghty missed the 2017 Cheltenham Festival through injury, but resumed business as usual in 2018 with two more winners for J.P. McManus. He had to work hard to land odds of 8/15 on Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle, but there were not many easier winners all week than Prezien – one of five runners owned by J.P. McManus – in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup.

Graham Wylie

Graham Wylie  Businessman Graham Wylie is the most successful owner in the North of England and, together with his wife, Andrea, has had 13 winners at the Cheltenham Festival. Initially, the Wylies were the principal patrons of County Durham trainer Howard Johnson, to whom they were fiercely loyal. In those early years, the Wylies were best known as the owners of Inglis Drever, the first horse to win the Stayers’ Hurdle three times, in 2005, 2007 and 2008, but their distinctive beige and black colours were also carried to victory by Arcalis in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and No Refuge in the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle in 2005 and Tidal Bay in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2008.

 

However, in 2011 a disciplinary inquiry conducted by the British Horseracing Authority concluded that Johnson had shown “a reckless regard” for the rules on horse welfare and warned him off for four years. Johnson immediately announced his retirement, leaving Graham Wylie to “think about” his own involvement in racing. Wylie downscaled his operation, selling many of his horses and dispersing the remainder to the best trainers on either side of the Irish Sea, in his opinion, Paul Nicholls in Britain and Willie Mullins in Ireland.

 

In fact, it was Mullins who saddled his next two Cheltenham Festival winners, Back In Focus in the National Hunt Chase and Briar Hill in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2013. After drawing a blank in 2014 and 2015, the Wylies returned to the winners’ enclosure three times in 2016, courtesy of Solar Impulse, trained by Paul Nicholls, in the Grand Annual Chase and Black Hercules and Yorkhill, both trained by Willie Mullins, in the JLT Novices’ Chase and the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, respectively. In 2017, they won the JLT Novices’ Chase again, with Yorkhill, and completed a notable double with Nicholls Canyon, also trained by Mullins, in the Stayers’ Hurdle.