David ‘The Duke’ Nicholson, who died of a heart attack, at the age of 67, in August, 2006 was one of the finest National Hunt trainers of his generation, saddling 1,499 winners in his 31-year career between 1968 and 1999. Nicholson was the son of former Champion Jockey Herbert ‘Frenchie’ Nicholson, who turned to training shortly after World War II. He was christened ‘The Duke’ by one of the grooms employed by his father because of his occasionally cocksure attitude as a young man and the nickname stuck with him throughout his adult life.


Nicholson became Champion National Hunt Trainer just twice, in 1993/94 and 1994/95, but was, in fact, the only trainer, other than Martin Pipe, to win the trainers’ title between 1989/90 and 2004/05. By that time, Nicholson had accepted a salaried position at Jackdaws Castle, a state-of-the-art training facility built by property developer Colin Smith in Ford, near Temple Guiting, Gloucestershire.


Highlights of his first title-winning season included victories for Barton Bank in the King George VI Chase, Mysilv in the Finale Junior Hurdle, Viking Flagship in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Mysilv, again, in the Triumph Hurdle. All told, he saddled 79 winners from 324 runners on British soil and won over £720,000 in prize money.


The 1994/95 season started well enough, too, with victory for Viking Flagship in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park in early December, en route to a repeat performance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and further success at the highest level in the Melling Chase at Aintree. Nicholson also saddled Hebridean to win the Long Walk Hurdle, Brownhall to win the Feltham Novices’ Chase, Silver Wedge to win the Tolworth Hurdle, Putty Road to win the Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle and Kadi to win the Mildmay of Flete Challenge Cup. He was leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with three winners but, more importantly, the season as whole yielded 95 winners and just short of £887,000 in prize money, to give him his second trainers’ title.

The late Fred Thomas Winter CBE, who died in April, 2004, aged 77, first turned his attention to training at Uplands Stables, in Upper Lambourn, near Newbury, Berkshire in 1964 with just five horses. However, despite a hesitant start to his training career, Winter had the distinction of winning the Grand National with his first two runners in the world-famous steeplechase, Jay Trump in 1965 and Anglo in 1966.


In 1970/71, Winter saddled 73 winners and won over £60,000 in prize money to become just the second man since World War II – after Fred Rimell – to be crowned Champion Jockey and Champion Trainer. In fact, Winter would retain the trainers’ championship in all bar one of the next seven seasons, only losing out to Rimell in 1975/76, and would win it again in 1984/85, for what was, at that point, a record eighth time.


At the Cheltenham Festival in 1971, Winter saddled Bula to win the Champion Hurdle and Crisp – better remembered as the horse caught in the dying strides by Red Rum in the Grand National two years later – to win the Two-Mile Champion Chase, in the days before it was renamed in honour of the late Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, a.k.a. The Queen Mother.


The following year, Bula won the Champion Hurdle again, Pendil won the Arkle Challenge Trophy and Soloning won the now-defunct Cathcart Challenge Cup, a race Winter would win seven times in total during his training career. Later that year, Pendil won the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day but, back at Cheltenham in 1973, suffered an agonising defeat when, having led over the final fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was caught in the shadow of the post and beaten a short-head by The Dikler.


Winter did, however, saddle the brilliant, but ill-fated, Killiney to win the Totalisator Champion Chase – now the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase – by 25 lengths or so, while Pendil gain some recompense for his Gold Cup defeat when winning the King George VI Chase for the second year running. Other Cheltenham Festival highlights included winning the Champion Hurdle again, with Lanzarote in 1974 and, finally, after several near-misses, the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Midnight Court in 1978.

Formerly stable jockey and assistant trainer to David Barons, Paul Nicholls first arrived at Manor Farm Stables – a former dairy farming facility, which has been completely transformed during his tenure – in Ditcheat, near Shepton Mallet, Somerset in October, 1991, with just eight horses. As a trainer in his own right, Nicholls was first thrust into the public when, at the Cheltenham Festival in 1999, he saddled Flagship Uberalles to win the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Call Equiname to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase and See More Business to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Collectively, those three winners were enough to secure the Leading Trainer Award for the first time.


However, as far as the overall trainers’ championship was concerned, after years of plating second fiddle to Martin Pipe, Nicholls would have to wait until the 2005/06 season – at the end of which Pipe retired, due to ill health – to become Champion Trainer for the first time. Nevertheless, having secured his first trainers’ title with 148 winners – including Kauto Star in the Tingle Creek Chase, Denman in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle, Noland in the Tolworth Hurdle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Star De Mohaison in the Royal and Sun Alliance Chase, to name but a few – and £2.4 million in prize money, Nicholls replaced Pipe as the dominant force in British National Hunt racing.


In fact, Nicholls’ dominance was such that he became Champion Trainer in ten of the eleven seasons between 2005/06 and 2015/16, a sequence interrupted only by Nicky Henderson in 2012/13. At the last count, Nicholls had saddled 2,938 winners under National Hunt Rules, including 117 at the highest level and 43 at the Cheltenham Festival. The superstars to have passed through his care over the years have included Kauto Star, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice and the King George VI Chase a record five times, Master Minded, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase twice, Big Buck’s, winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle four years in a row and, of course, Neptune Collonges, winner of the Grand National.

Nicholas John “Nicky” Henderson LVO – he was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in the New Year Honours List in 2010 – is legendary in the sphere of National Hunt racing. Formerly assistant trainer to eight-time Champion Trainer Fred Winter, Henderson began training, in his own right, in 1978 and, in a career spanning four decades, has saddled over 3,000 winners and become Champion Trainer, himself, on five occasions.


Indeed, by the time he moved to the historic Seven Barrows Stables, just north of Lambourn, Berkshire, in 1992, Henderson had already won the trainers’ title twice, in 1985/86 and 1986/87. He saddled his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, the brilliant, but fragile, See You Then, in the Champion Hurdle in 1985 and prepared the same horse to win most prestigious hurdling event in the National Hunt calendar again in 1986 and 1987.


Henderson didn’t become Champion Trainer again until 2012/13 but, even in the intervening years, when the trainers’ championship was dominated first by Martin Pipe and then by Paul Nicholls, he remained the man to beat at the Cheltenham Festival. All in all, Henderson has been leading trainer at the Festival nine times; in 2013, he became the first trainer to reach 50 winners at the Festival and, although overtaken by Willie Mullins as the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history in 2018, he remains clear second in the all-time list with 60 winners.


In 2012/2013 enjoyed a fabulous season, even by his standards, winning the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase with Captain Conan, the Tingle Creek Chase with Sprinter Sacre, the Christmas Hurdle with Darlan and the King George VI Chase with Long Run, all before the turn of the year, and continued in similar vein thereafter. At the Cheltenham Festival, he won Arkle Challenge Trophy with Simonsig, the Queen Mother Champion with Sprinter Sacre and the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Bobs Worth, eventually chalking up £2.92 million in prize money to become Champion Trainer for the third time.


In recent years, Henderson has, once again, become the dominant force in British National Hunt racing, winning the trainers’ title again in 2016/17 and 2017/18, with £2.85 million and £3.48 million in prize money, respectively. Highlights of the latter part of his career have included the Champion Hurdle, twice, with Buveir D’Air in 2017 and 2018, and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Arkle Challenge Trophy and Queen Mother Champion Chase with Altior in 2016, 2017 and 2018.