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.