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.