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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Special to HRI – By Sean O’Connor

Whether you’re a punter or simply an avid fan of the so-called sport of kings, the chances are that you have extensive knowledge of the world’s most iconic runners and riders.

When you’re placing a wager or reviewing the horse racing picks however, you also require knowledge of the best and most successful trainers.

In this article, we’ll review some of the best horse racing trainers of all-time, whilst appraising their record-breaking achievements:

1- Vincent O’Brien

We start with the late Vincent O’Brien, who remains most experts pick as the best trainer of all-time.

O’Brien is something of an anomaly too, as he excelled in both flat and jump races during his stellar 52-year career. 

The Irishman notched up an impressive 22 winners by the time he was 41, whilst his total honours haul includes four Cheltenham Gold Cups, three Champions Hurdles and a total of three Grand Nationals.

On the flat-racing side (which is where he focused all of his attention during the latter stages of his career), his runners won six Derbys and three Arc de Triomphes.

2- Aidan O’Brien

There must be something about the name O’Brien, with Aidan having achieved some spectacular results in just 20 years as an elite-level trainer.

Incredibly, he has trained the winners of 34 Irish Classics and 23 English Classics, comprising six Irish Guineas, 10 Irish 2,000 Guineas, 11 Irish Derbys and 4 English St. Ledgers amongst various other successes.

O’Brien has also fared particularly well at Royal Ascot, having saddled Yeats to win a record-breaking four consecutive Ascot Gold Cups.

The only disappointment on his glittering resume is that he only won the Arc De Triomphe event once, and this arguably puts him slightly behind his namesake in the pantheon of great trainers.

3- Henry Cecil

One of the most successful and yet humble trainers of all-time, Cecil is a man who has earned 31 triumphs in both English and Irish Classics.

In total, he won 25 English Classics, including six 1,000 Guineas and eight Oaks. He was particularly prolific during the 80s and 90s, whilst his ability to train and get the best out of fillies remains legendary in the sport.

Over the course of his career, he has also achieved incredible success at Royal Ascot, where he trained 75 winners overall.

Cecil also won 10 coveted Champion Trainer awards, winning consecutive honours between 1978 and 1979, 1984 and 1985 and 1987 to 1988.

4- Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls is still going strong as a skilled trainer, but if he were to retire tomorrow he could look back on a glittering career that stands comparison with the best of all-time.

Another contender with a tally of 10 Champion Trainer titles, Nicholls has also won nine King Georges, four Cheltenham Gold Cups, four Queen Mother Champion Chases and a single Grand National.

Perhaps his greatest achievement is Nicholl’s ability to keep runners consistently great for a period of years, as this is incredibly challenging over the hurdles.

It’s certainly hard to imagine another horse achieving the same success and longevity of Kauto Star and Big Bucks, whilst Nicholls still has time to push his claims and become the very best trainer of all-time!

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3 Responses

  1. Wish I were more familiar with all the principals and got interested in the game at the very end of Vincent O’Brien’s career. But from the little I observed, and anecdotal stories from trusted journalists such as Joe Hirsch, allow me to believe that it is “the Wizard of Tipperary” who would top this list.

    But we do have a few guys over here in America whose names and reputations stack up favorably with the above. My problem with this particular poll is that I have about eight or 10 trainers who, for one reason or another, I could rank #1. Great question!

  2. Of the choices offered, I pick Sir Henry Cecil. He overcame more hurdles than his horses. However, I agree with John that several trainers in the US rank up there with the listed Euros.

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