5 Trainers Looking For Their First Cheltenham Festival Win

Joseph O'Brien and Ivanovich Gorbatov after winning the Triumph Hurdle

To scoop a prize at the Cheltenham Festival, the pinnacle of National Hunt racing, whether it be the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase or the Gold Cup, is a momentous occasion in the life of a jumps’ trainer. What makes it all the harder, added to the initial challenge of training a horse good enough to win a race at Cheltenham, is the dominance of three leading yards over the recent years.

Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson won seventeen of the twenty-eight races at last year’s Festival. Breaking one’s duck has never proved harder than in the current generation when these three dominate. Nevertheless, there are a fair few trainers who have some strong prospects, and some outside ones, who could get them their sought-after victory at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. These are the five with the best chance.


One who could quite easily ascend into the higher echelons of our sport this year is Joseph O’Brien. Pedigree plays a huge role in horse racing, and there are few trainers with a better pedigree than him, the son of A P O’Brien. Whilst many credit him with Ivanovich Gorbatov’s 2016 Triumph win, he remained officially under the stewardship of his father whilst Joseph awaited the approval of his license.

He didn’t take long to announce his arrival onto the scene as a trainer however, winning the 2017 Melbourne Cup. He has gone from strength to strength since then, winning two Grade One’s in last year’s National Hunt Season, and he has already scooped three this year. He has an outstanding hand at this year’s Festival with these four the pick, and if anyone were going to break their maiden, it would be him. You can view more on the New Man in Town.

  • Sir Erec (JCB Triumph Hurdle) – Nowhere does his claim for a first Festival winner look stronger than with this year’s Triumph favourite. A classy sort on the level rated 109, he made a winning debut over hurdles, scoring by a neck. He readily improved from that to land a Grade One at the Dublin Racing Festival by six-lengths.
  • Le Richebourg (Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase) – He won his first two over fences before going down narrowly to Delta Work in the Drinmore over two-miles-four. Stepped down in trip, he completed a Grade One double at Leopardstown, and asserted his dominance over the two-miler novice chasers, beating stablemate Us And Them twice.
  • Fakir D’oudairies (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) – We may well see JP McManus’ new recruit in the Supreme, given Sir Erec’s leading claims for the Triumph. He made a pleasing hurdling debut before dominating a Grade Two over two-miles-one at Prestbury Park earlier this year.
  • Band Of Outlaws (Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle) – He shot into favouritism for the Fred Winter after overcoming a competitive field at Naas, beating his better fancied stablemate Konitho. He is also entered into the Triumph and Supreme.


Whilst his career hasn’t quite hit the stratospheric levels that O’Brien’s has in his respective fledgling career, it is hard not to be impressed at the progress Olly Murphy has made since having his first winner in July 2017. He also has a promising hand in the Novice Hurdle division, with three players –

  • Thomas Darby (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) – A bumper winner who beat Elixir De Nutz on hurdling debut, he chased home Mister Fisher on his third hurdling start. He made no mistake eased in grade after that, scoring readily by three-lengths at Taunton last-time.
  • Itchy Feet (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) – A seven-length winner on debut over timber before winning a Listed race in comfortable style. He followed that with another game effort, only narrowly denied in a Grade Two running under a penalty.
  • Brewin’upastorm (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle) – Beaten just four-lengths by Champ in a Grade One on his second start over obstacles, he looked sure to go close in a trial race when falling when alongside Birchdale.


A Grade One winner over hurdles at the end of last season, Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor made a highly impressive start to life over fences, scoring with ease in a Grade Two at Cheltenham. He may well have found the soft-ground go against him when disappointing as Sandown. Returned to his favoured venue in March, on better ground, we could see a far better showing in the Arkle.


Things haven’t gone to plan for Ruth Jefferson’s star Waiting Patiently this season, often unable to run due to the unseasonably good ground and unseating in the King George on reappearance. He can perhaps be forgiven his recent showing in the Betfair Chase, given that it was on unsuitable good ground and that the imperious victor, Cyrname is unlikely to take his place at Cheltenham due to his preference for going right-handed. Provided Ruth Jefferson’s charge gets the desired soft ground, and strips fitter for what was effectively his first full run of the season, he’d have a chance in the Ryanair.


A fair few of the smaller Irish yards have some decent sorts in their midsts, none more so than Martin Brassil’s City Island, who scored readily from Mullins’ Getareason on hurdling debut, only to be disqualified for testing positive for Arsenic. Nothing stopped him after that, scoring by three-lengths from Gordon Elliott’s Dallas Des Pictons, who has won a competitive handicap since. He took his form to a new level on his third hurdling start, scoring by seven-lengths and recording an RPR of 145.

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