Roger Brookhouse

Roger Brookhouse  Between 2000/01 and 2007/08, Warwickshire-based engineer Roger Stephen Brookhouse was a moderately successful permit holder in his own right but, more recently, has found fame as a high-profile National Hunt owner on both sides of the Irish Sea. As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Brookhouse finally broke his duck when the talented, but fragile, Cheltenian won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2011.

Trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson, Cheltenian was ridden clear in the closing stages to win by 5 lengths at odds of 14/1. Cheltenian ran at the next four Cheltenham Festivals, but failed to trouble the judge in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle three times, including when favourite in 2014. In fact, despite a promising start to his career, Cheltenian won just twice over hurdles, a lowly maiden event at Uttoxeter, at odds of 2/7, in 2013 and the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr two years later.

Indeed, it was a few years before Brookhouse saw his light blue and pink silks carried to victory at the Cheltenham Festival again. In 2014, though, former point-to-point winner Western Warhorse, who was having just his second run over regulation fences, gamely beat Champagne Fever – who was chasing a Festival hat-trick, after winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2012 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2013 – in the Arkle Challenge Trophy. Trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore, Western Warhorse produced a strong run from the final fence to wear down the leader in the final hundred yards and led in the last stride for a shock 33/1 victory.

More recently – in fact, as recently as 2018 – Brookhouse enjoyed further Cheltenham Festival success when Summerville Boy, trained by Tom George and ridden by Noel Fehily, won the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Summerville Boy had already beaten the eventual runner-up, Kalashnikov, by 4 lengths in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on his previous start in January, but had to call on all his resources to win by a neck, on identical terms, at Cheltenham.

Michael O’Leary

Michael O’Leary  Not many owners can say that their first success at the Cheltenham Festival came in the blue riband of the National Hunt season, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but one who can is Michael O’Leary, the proprietor of Gigginstown House Stud. His maroon and white colours were first carried to victory by War Of Attrition, trained by Michael “Mouse” Morris, in 2006 and, since then, O’Leary has recorded 25 more wins, making him the second most successful owner in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, behind J.P. McManus.

O’Leary won the Cheltenham Gold Cup again in 2016 with Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott, but it was seven winners at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 – far and away the best year, so far, for Gigginstown House Stud – that caused him to remark, “When I die, this is the week I’ll remember.”

Despite the defeat of one Irish ‘banker’, Apple’s Jade in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, his seven winners included another, Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and, finally, after 15 years of trying, he won the Ryanair Chase – the race he sponsors, as chief executive of the Irish low-cost airline – with Balko Des Flos, trained by Henry De Bromhead. Unsurprisingly, Gigginstown House Stud won the Leading Owner Award at the Cheltenham Festival, beating J.P. McManus into second place for the second year running.

O’Leary still has some way to go to catch McManus, but Gigginstown House Stud is, undoubtedly, a dominant force in Irish National Hunt racing. Principal trainer Gordon Elliott – who has saddled 11 of the 19 winners owned by Gigginstown House Stud at the last five Cheltenham Festivals and won the Leading Trainer Award in 2017 and 2018 – continues to flourish, so there appears no reason why O’Leary cannot make further inroads into McManus’ lead in the years to come.

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.