2021 Cheltenham Festival – Who’ll Be Top Trainer?
Another market that has become ever-popular in the build-up to the four-day Cheltenham Festival is which trainer will end up with the most winners after the 28 races have been run.
The powerful Nicky Henderson team have fired in a staggering 68 Cheltenham Festival winners over the years and has ended up as top trainer 9 times since 1980 – it will be a shock if he’s not on the scoresheet again in 2021.
The Seven Barrows handler will again have a big army heading to Prestbury Park and is sure to have his supporters as he eyes top trainer title number ten, but he’s played second fiddle to Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott in this market in the last 8 years and it’s likely to be more of the same again.
Did you know, at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival a staggering 19 of the 28 races were won by just four trainers? – Gordon Elliott (7), Willie Mullins (7), Nicky Henderson (4), Paul Nicholls (1)
The 14-time Irish Champion trainer – Willie Mullins – leads the all-time Cheltenham Festival winning list though with a staggering 72 successes.
It looks a three-horse race again……….well, probably a two-horse race…….and actually really a ONE-HORSE RACE!!
Like in recent years - It would be one of the biggest shocks in recent Cheltenham Festival history if one of Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson or Gordon Elliott doesn’t end the four days as top trainer.
If you pin your interest to one of these three, then if will give you an added interest each day and on most races…………………hopefully for the whole week!
Mullins Left It Late in 2020 - Don’t forget, at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, it took a Willie Mullins four-time on the final day (Friday) to reel in Gordon Elliot, who also managed 7 winners overall – but Mullins had the more place finishes.
That 2020 Cheltenham Festival trainers’ title meant Willie Mullins has now been the top trainer seven times since 2011 at the meeting,
So, Can Mullins Follow-up?
In short, he really should and with the firepower he’s got at his disposal this year, it will be a massive shock if he’s not grabbing his eighth trainers’ title at the Cheltenham Festival.
He dominated the 2021 Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown at the start of February with winners that including Gaillard Du Mesnil, Chacun Pour Soi, Engergumene, Kilcruit, Monkfish, Appreciate It and Kemboy. Most of those DRF winner are now big fancies to follow-up at the Cheltenham Festival in a variety of races, so he’s probably got one of his best Cheltenham squads in recent years.
Add in the current Gold Cup winner – Al Boum Photo, Concertista and Benie Des Dieux – then his hand gets even stronger, while that’s before we’ve even got into the handicaps – he always seem to grab one or two of these too!
Gordon Elliott will have Envoi Allen as his main banker, but in what seems a strange year there’s not much else to lick your lips over when it comes to Elliott. Okay, he’s sure to pick up a few of the handicaps too, but, while his Quilixios looks one of the leading players in the Triumph Hurdle, but unlike more recent years, Elliott seems to be a long way off the amount of ‘bankers’ Mullins has.
Nicky Henderson, who has had 68 Festival winners in total, can’t be totally ruled out with the likes of Shishkin, the current Champion Hurdler, Epatante and multiple Festival winner – Altior – in his armoury. However, the Seven Barrows front man is more likely to be firing in close to his 2020 haul of four winners (at a push), and I can’t see that being anywhere near enough to topple Mullins.
Paul Nicholls dominated this market between 2004 and 2009 – winning the trainers’ title five times but it’s still a bit of a ‘changing of the guard’ at Ditcheat at the moment and the days of Denman, Kauto Star and Master Minded seem a long way off at the moment.
He had just the two winners in both 2018 and 2019, plus the single success in 2020 when Politologue landed the Champion Chase. Yes, he’s sure to fire in a few winners again, maybe in the Fred Winter that he’s done well in in recent years. However, as mentioned, does lack any with the ‘banker’ tag so it’s hard seeing him or any or the other yards outside the main three being top trainer at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Henry de Bromhead would probably be some people’s each-way pick, or value over Mullins – but that’s still probably being a bit kind! He fired in two winners at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and his super mare – Honeysuckle, who won the mares’ hurdle in 2020 – will be all the rage for which ever race she tackles, but even though you feel he’s sure to get on the scoresheet at some point, he’s another that is some way off the firepower of Mullins. Last year de Bromhead had two winners with his Put The Kettle On also taking the Arkle.
Colin Tizzard, David Pipe, Philip Hobbs, Dan Skelton and Joseph O’Brien are all yards that should be challenging to get on the scoresheet too, but, again, more likely to be in the range of 1-2 Festival winners, rather than the 7+ Mullins will probably get again.
TQ VERDICT: WILLIE MULLINS TO BE TOP TRAINER
Winners Of The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award
2020 Willie Mullins (7)
2019 Willie Mullins (4)
2018 Gordon Elliott (8)
2017 Gordon Elliott IRE (6)
2016 Willie Mullins IRE (7)
2015 Willie Mullins IRE (8)
2014 Willie Mullins IRE (4)
2013 Willie Mullins IRE (5)
2012 Nicky Henderson (7)
2011 Willie Mullins IRE (4)
2010 Nicky Henderson (3)
2009 Paul Nicholls (5)
2008 Paul Nicholls (3)
2007 Paul Nicholls (4)
2006 Paul Nicholls (3)
2005 Howard Johnson (3)
2004 Paul Nicholls (4)
2003 Jonjo O’Neill (3)
2002 Martin Pipe (3)
2000 Nicky Henderson (4)
1999 Paul Nicholls (3)
The most successful current trainers at The Cheltenham Festival
72 Willie Mullins
68 Nicky Henderson
46 Paul Nicholls
32 Gordon Elliott
26 Jonjo O'Neill
20 Philip Hobbs
17 Nigel Twiston-Davies
15 Alan King
15 David Pipe