Gordon Elliott

Gordon Elliott  Co. Meath trainer Gordon Elliott first took out a training licence in 2007 and saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Chicago Grey, in the National Hunt Chase in 2011. Five years later, he saddled Don Cossack, owned by Gigginstown House Stud and ridden by 23-year-old Bryan Cooper – who, according to Elliott, had given the horse a ‘diabolical’ ride when a beaten favourite in the Ryanair Chase in 2015 – to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

More recently, in 2017, Elliott saddled six Festival winners and beat Willie Mullins to the Leading Trainer Award on countback, by virtue of three second-placed horses to Mullins’ two. In 2018, the victory of Blow By Blow in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on the Friday took his total for the meeting to eight winners, equalling the record set by Mullins three years earlier and pipping his compatriot to the Leading Trainer Award, for the second year running, by one winner.

Of course, Elliott was the chief beneficiary Gigginstown House Stud removed all 60 of its horses from Mullins’ yard in September, 2016, following a dispute over training fees. In fact, in 2018, Elliott saddled two so-called ‘bankers’ in Michael O’Leary’s distinctive maroon and white colours, Apple’s Jade, only third, at 1/2, in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle on Champion Day and Samcro, winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Ladies’ Day at 8/11. Other winners for Gigginstown House Stud, trained by Elliott, were Tiger Roll in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, Shattered Love in the JLT Novices’ Chase, Delta Work in the Pertemps Network Final and Farclas in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Although something of a new kid on the block, when compared with Cheltenham stalwarts such as Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliott clearly has the ammunition to compete with the ‘old guard’ and seems likely to become a fixture at Prestbury Park when March rolls around each year.

Colin Tizzard

Colin Tizzard  Dorset dairy farmer turned trainer Colin Tizzard first took out a full training licence in 1998, but in the two decades since has gone from strength to strength and, in 2018, enjoyed his best season yet, numerically, with 1979 winners.

Tizzard saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Cue Card, in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2010. A 40/1 outsider on that occasion, Cue Card became a flag bearer for the yard in subsequent seasons. He finished fourth, when favourite, behind Al Ferof in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2011, clear second behind impressive winner Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2012 and made all to beat First Lieutenant by 9 lengths in the Ryanair Chase in 2013. He twice fell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when well fancied, including in 2016, when chasing a £1 million Triple Crown bonus, having already won the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

However, on the previous day, Tizzard had already saddled Thistlecrack to a facile, 7-length win over Alpha Des Obeaux and ten other rivals in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Afterwards,Tizzard spoke of not having to be part of a “big battalion” to find a superstar and, two years later, he appeared to have found another when Native River, ridden by Richard Johnson, fought off a determined challenge by eventual runner-up, Might Bite, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Heading into the final day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, Tizzard had drawn a blank at the meeting and seen the ever popular Cue Card pulled up in what turned out to be his final race in the Ryanair Chase the previous day. However, Kilbricken Storm caused a 33-1 upset when winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and, 40 minutes later, Native River provided a fairytale ending to the week and, in so doing, became his seventh Cheltenham Festival winner.

Nigel Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies  Having learned his trade under Fred Winter, Kim Bailey and David Nicholson, Nigel Twiston-Davies saddled his first winner as a trainer, Last Of The Foxes, at Hereford in 1982. Since those early days, Welsh-born Twiston-Davies has sent out hundreds more winners from his stables at Grange Hill Farm in Naunton, Gloucestshire and has spent most of his career as one of the top half a dozen or so National Hunt trainers in the country.

However, he is probably still best known as the trainer of Imperial Commander, who won a vintage renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which also featured Kauto Star and Denman, in 2010. In fact, the victory of Imperial Commander initiated a memorable treble, which also included Baby Run, ridden by the trainer’s son Sam, who was just 17 years old at the time, in the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase and Pigeon Island in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual.

All in all, Twiston-Davies has saddled 17 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, which earns him in joint-seventeenth place, alongside his mentor David Nicholson, in the list of most successful trainers of all time at the Festival. Aside from the Cheltenham Gold Cup, his notable victories include the Weatherbys Champion Bumper with Ballyandy in 2016, the Ryanair Chase with Imperial Commander in 2009, the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle three times, with Gaelstrom in 1993, Fundamentalist in 2004 and The New One. He’s also won the RSA Chase and the Pertemps Final twice apiece, with Young Hustler in 1993, Blaklion in 2016 and Rubhahunish in 2000 and Ballyfitz in 2008, respectively.