The late William Richard ‘Dick’ Hern CVO CBE, also widely known as ‘The Major’, was one of the outstanding racehorse trainers in the second half of the twentieth century. He first became directly involved in horse racing, as assistant trainer to his friend, Major Michael Pope, in 1952 but, five years later, successfully applied for the job as private trainer to leading, and notoriously difficult, owner Major Lionel Brook Holliday at Lagrange Stables in Newmarket.


In 1962, Hern saddled the first of his seventeen British Classic winners, Hethersett – who had started favourite for the Derby, but was one of seven horses that fell, or were brought down, in a melee at Tattenham Corner – in the St. Leger Stakes and became Champion Trainer for the first time. At the end of the 1962 season, Hern succeeded R.J. ‘Jack’ Colling as the trainer at West Isley Stables, near Newbury, Berkshire and, in 1967, started training for Queen Elizabeth II, with whom he would enjoy a fruitful association over the next 22 years.


In 1972, Hern was Champion Trainer again, thanks, in large part, to the exploits of British Horse of Year, Brigadier Gerard. With a Timeform Annual Rating of 144, Brigadier Gerard remains the joint third highest-rated horse of the Timeform era, behind only Frankel and Sea-Bird and, that year, won the Lockinge Stakes, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, the Eclipse Stakes, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Champion Stakes. Just for good measure, Hern also saddled Sun Prince to win the St. James’s Palace Stakes and Sallust to win the Sussex Stakes.


In 1980, Hern was conferred the honour of Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) by his royal patron and, fittingly, won the trainers’ title for the third time. His six domestic Group One victories that year came courtesy of Bireme in the Oaks, Henbit in the Derby, Ela-Mana-Mou in the Eclipse Stakes, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Shoot A Line in the Yorkshire Oaks.


Three years later, Hern won the Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks again, this time with the same filly, Sun Princess, who later won the St. Leger Stakes before finishing second to All Along in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Her Oaks victory was notable for two reasons; she was the first maiden to win the Epsom Classic since Asmena in 1950 and her winning margin, 12 lengths, was, and still is, the largest recorded in the history of the race. Her St. Leger victory, though, secured Hern his fourth, and final, trainers’ title.

Paul Frederick Irvine Cole has been based at Whatcombe Racing Stables, in Wantage, Oxfordhire since 1987. Whatcombe is, in fact, one of the largest, and oldest, training facilities in the country, having previous been occupied by Richard Cecil ‘Dick’ Dawson and Arthur Budgett, who won the trainers’ championship four times between them. In 1984, late Prince Fahd bin Salman – the son-in-law of Prince Khalid bin Abdullah who died, prematurely, aged 47, from a suspected heart attack in Riyadh in 2001 – bought Whatcombe and, under his patronage, Cole enjoyed the ‘golden age’ of his training career.


Cole won the trainers’ title just once, in 1991, but enjoyed an unforgettable summer courtesy of Generous, whom he’d bought as a two-year-old on behalf of Prince Fahd. Having sprung a surprise when winning the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket at 50/1, under Richard Quinn, on his final start as juvenile, Generous reappeared in the 2,000 Guineas, in which he finished a respectable fourth of 14, beaten 8¾ lengths, behind Mystiko.


However, as a son of Caerleon, and a grandson of Nijinksy, it was over middle-distances that Generous came into his own. On his next three starts, ridden by new jockey Alan Munro, he carried the dark green racing silks of Prince Fahd to victory in the Derby, by 5 lengths, the Irish Derby, by 3 lengths, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, by 7 lengths.


He couldn’t provide a fairytale ending to his career, finishing unplaced behind Suave Dancer – whom he’d beaten in the Irish Derby – in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but nevertheless finished his three-year-old campaign with a Timeform Annual Rating of 139, making him one of the truly great horses of the Timeform era. Cole later said that he was ‘very lucky’ to have had Generous and there is no doubt that the horse propelled him to the top of his profession.


The same season, Cole also saddled Culture Vulture, who was awarded the Fillies’ Mile at Ascot on the disqualification of Midnight Air, trained by Henry Cecil and Ruby Tiger, winner of the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. All told, he saddled 72 winners on British soil in 1991 and took the trainers’ title with £1.52 million in prize money.

Miles Henry ‘Peter’ Easterby – not to be confused with his younger brother, Michael William ‘Mick’ Easterby who, at the time of writing, has the distinction of being the oldest racehorse trainer in Britain – retired in 1996, but was, arguably, the greatest dual-purpose trainer in the history of British horse racing. Over two decades after he handed over to his son, Tim, at Habton Grange Stables, near Malton, North Yorkshire, Easterby remains the only trainer in history to saddle more than 1,000 winners under both codes.


In the National Hunt sphere, Easterby was Champion Trainer three years running, in 1978/79, 1979/80 and 1980/81. All told, Easterby saddled 13 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, starting with the notoriously hard-pulling, but slick-jumping, Saucy Kit in the Champion Hurdle in 1967 but, between 1976 and 1983, enjoyed a particularly purple patch at the most prestigious meeting in the National Hunt calendar with ten winners in seven years.


His favourite horse and, with a Timeform Annual Rating of 182, still the highest rated hurdler since the early-60s, Night Nurse, won the Champion Hurdle in 1976 and 1977. Four years later, having successful switched to steeplechasing, the same horse failed by a length-and-a-half to become the first horse to complete the Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double, when beaten, ironically, by stable companion Little Owl in the latter contest.


Easterby won the Champion Hurdle twice more, with Sea Pigeon, at the age of 10 and 11, respectively, in 1980 and 1981. When the ‘old man’ – as Sir Peter O’Sullevan called Sea Pigeon during his first victory – died, at the age of 30, in 2000, he was buried alongside his former stable companion, Night Nurse, at Habton Grange, beneath a plaque inscribed ‘Legends In Their Lifetime’.


During his reign as Champion Trainer, Easterby also saddled the hugely-talented, but ill-fated, Alverton to win the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 1978 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1979. Fresh from his wide-margin win in the Blue Riband event, the 9-year-old was sent off a worthy favourite for the Grand National, but broke his neck during a fall at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, when cantering in front, and was humanely euthanised.

Veteran trainer David Raymond Cecil Elsworth made his name as assistant trainer to Guy Richardson Aymer  “Ricky” Vallance, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel, at Bishops Cannings, near Devizes, Wiltshire. However, one of the horses in his care, Well Briefed, was referred to the Jockey Club over his marked improvement in form, delaying his application for a training licence in his own right. The authorities relented, in 1978, and Elsworth set up on his own at nearby Whitsbury Manor Stables, near Fordingbridge, where he was to enjoy his most successful years as a trainer.


Indeed, Elsworth was Champion National Hunt just once, in 1987/88, just denying Josh Gifford. Ironically, that was the only season between 1986/87 and 1990/91 that his most famous horse, Desert Orchid, failed to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Sent off at even-money favourite, the redoubtable grey helped to set a furious pace for the first mile and, having held a narrow lead turning into the straight for the final time, was quickly left behind by French challenger Nupsala, who went on to win by 15 lengths at odds of 25/1.


However, Desert Orchid returned to winning ways at end of the 1987/88 season, jumping well to beat Kildimo by 8 lengths in the Chivas Regal Cup Chase at Aintree and running on well to beat the same horse by 2½ lengths in the Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown Park on the final day of the season. By then, of course, Elsworth had already saddled Rhyme ‘N’ Reason to win the newly rebranded Racing Post Chase and the Grand National at Aintree – in which the horse famously ‘did the splits’ at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit – and Cavvies Clown, who led until blundering at the second last fence, to finish second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup won by Charter Party.