Who to Follow at Cheltenham Festival

While there are many race series and big trainers in the United States, they don’t always travel across the pond and Cheltenham Festival has been devoid of U.S. horses and trainers. There is a reason that the spring meeting at the world-famous Cheltenham course is the crown jewel of jump racing and U.S. trainers and horses have struggled at times to break into the festival. This can be attributed to fluctuations in quality of horse and trainer being produced as the sport faces stiff competition from the likes of basketball and American football.

However, horse racing remains popular across the U.S. and the whole world. This is reflected in the bookmakers, with horse racing remaining the second most popular betting market globally. The United States also has a rich tradition of involvement with the famous festival in the past, and there are a few American-made horses and trainers who are set to be included again in the future.

Below, we look at the top trainers in the history of Cheltenham and the jockeys that you should look out for in the next editions of the Cheltenham festival.

A Brief History of Cheltenham Festival

While there has been jump racing at Cheltenham for more than a hundred years, the first Gold Cup was awarded in 1924, with a prize fund of 685 British pounds. When you compare that with prize money of 351,688 pounds in 2022, you can see just how much the competition (and the money involved) has grown.

When it comes to the top jump races in the UK, it is a close tie between the Grand National in April at Aintree, and the Gold Cup in March at Cheltenham. Both have seen their fair share of winners, losers, and surprises – but for many people the favor tends to fall on the side of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

As the Cheltenham Festival has grown, it has started taking place over four days, and there are 28 races over the four days that range from novice hurdles right up to the pinnacle of the jump calendar, the Gold Cup itself.  

So, when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival, who are the names to watch out for?

Top Trainers at Cheltenham

With such a long and storied history, the Cheltenham Festival has encouraged a whole range of trainers to get involved. However, there are a few names that always stand out because of their performance. Every year at the festival, a Champion Trainer is announced – this being the yard where the most winners across the four days have come from.

Willie Mullins

The Irish former jockey started training racehorses in 1988, having ridden a couple of winners himself (1983 at Aintree and 1996 at Cheltenham).

Mullins has a great history of training winning hurdlers, from Hedgehunter in the 2005 Grand National to all 88 winners he has trained at Cheltenham. If previous form of trainers is something to go by, then the fact that Mullins trained 10 winners at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival means that he still has plenty to offer the sport.

Nicky Henderson

Educated at Eton College and previously an amateur jockey, Nicky Henderson has a great record at Cheltenham Festival – only Willie Mullins has trained more winners.

Henderson has been training racehorses since 1978 and has had 72 winners across all races at Cheltenham. Horses trained by Henderson are always worth looking out for at the festival.

Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls had quite a successful career as a jump jockey, riding 133 winners in seven years as a professional before retiring in 1989. He started training in 1991 at a rented yard with just eight horses but has seen remarkable results.

Nicholls broke into the big time in 1999 when he managed to have three winners at the festival – including the Gold Cup with See More Business. He has had 46 winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

Top Jockeys to Watch

Of course, it isn’t just the trainers that are important. The jockeys riding the horses also have a part to play. There are many big names in the jump jockey world, but when it comes to Cheltenham here are our picks as the ones to watch:

Paul Townend

Paul Townend is currently the main rider for Willie Mullins, following Ruby Walsh’s retirement. The Irish jump jockey has ridden 22 winners at the Cheltenham Festival and looks set to keep that winning streak going.

Rachael Blackmore

After becoming the first female top Jockey in 2021, Rachael Blackmore has continued to break records. Her thrilling 2021 win at the Grand National as the first female winner was something special. She then went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2022.

Blackmore rides for top trainers like Mullins and Henry De Bromhead.

Nico de Boinville

Nico de Boinville holds the record for riding the most Grade 1 winners of any jockey currently active, and he won his first Cheltenham Gold Cup after just one year of becoming a professional jockey. He has had 15 wins at the Cheltenham Festival and U.S. punters might recognize him from his winning ride at the 2019 Grand National Hurdle Stakes in Far Hills, N.J.