The Cheltenham Festival is an annual event that takes place during March. That place on the calendar means that it is not just one of the biggest horseracing events in the UK but also marks the start to a new racing season.

This year it will be held over the days between the 14th and 17th March, and as usual, it will draw many of the best horses and trainers to Cheltenham Racecourse. The sheer number of championship races it features – no less than four – make the festival uniquely compelling.

That, plus the presence of so many horses trained by the cream of the crop, means that the festival always produces moments of brilliance. In this article we will look at the trainers who have been responsible for the majority of them.

Why People Want to Win at Cheltenham

The reason why so many of the very best trainers around want to put horses into the championship races at Cheltenham is because of the prestige attached to them. A win in one of these high profile races, particularly the Gold Cup on the last day of the event, can really put a horse and a trainer on the map.

That makes it almost as important to many as the Grand National and it matches that for sheer competitiveness. That is true of both the racing and the betting, with punters seeking out the hottest horses to back and the best sites to bet with.

Winning a Cheltenham bet can be as lucrative as winning a championship race there, with the prize money for race victories being another big incentive to the owners and trainers. So who are the trainers that have enjoyed the most success?

Willie Mullins

This legendary Irish trainer has enjoyed a staggering 88 Cheltenham Festival victories. Probably the most memorable of them all was the Gold Cup triumph of Al Boum Photo four years ago, which finally earned him the biggest festival prize after numerous disappointments.

The same horse won it for him again the following year, but it is not all about the Gold Cup. Quevega brought Mullins an amazing six wins in the Mares’ Hurdle.

He has several horses in contention again this year, including hot Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs, and another former Cheltenham champion in Energumene. Thus the chances of adding to his tally are excellent.

Nicky Henderson

Next on the list of the all-time top Cheltenham Festival trainers is Nicky Henderson. In his 40-year career he has trained a total of 72 winning horses at this event and been named leading trainer nine times.

He got his first win back in the mid-1980s when See You Then claimed the Champion Hurdles and that race has brought him particular success over the years. He has added a further eight victories, the most recent of which came three years ago in the form of Epatante.

Henderson is a Cheltenham all-rounder though, as horses he has trained have produced wins in all four champion races. His Gold Cup winners were Bob’s Worth and Long Run, while Altior is probably his most famous Queen Mother Champion Chase winner.

His runners this year include a hot favourite for the Champion Hurdles, Constitution Hill, as well as Shiskin, who is a decent bet for the Gold Cup.

Paul Nicholls

Although a long way behind the top two, Nicholls has still managed to train an impressive 46 winning horses in Cheltenham races. He is a younger man whose reputation did not really start to take off until early this century, when horses he trained secured a stunning series of victories at the festival.

Master Minded, Denman, Kauto Star, Big Buck’s and others like them brought multiple Gold Cups, Champion Chases and Stayers’ Hurdles for Nicholls and his Ditcheat stables.

Kauto Star was perhaps the most spectacular runner of all. Winner of the Gold Cup in 2007, before being pipped by Denman the following year, this horse went on to win it back in 2009.

That makes him the only horse to manage that in the history of the festival. It has been 15 years since Nicholls enjoyed Gold Cup glory, but his entry this year is Bravemansgame, a relative outsider.

More likely contenders are Hermes Allen, who is the current favourite for the Novices’ Hurdle and Tahmuras in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Nicholls is the dominant trainer among the new generation and he will want to take the chance to emphasise that again at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

These are the trainers who have experienced the most festival glory, but there are others coming up behind them, including Henry De Bromhead and Gordon Elliott. It is a competition as fierce as any on the race track.