With the nights now slowly beginning to draw in we can be forgiven for having one eye focused on the forthcoming National Hunt season, which will be with us in no time whatsoever.
The season starts proper around the middle of October, but who are the trainers we should be latching onto this time? Who are the people that are going to be landing the spoils in the big name races?
Let’s take a look at five trainers you should have on your side this 2019/20 National Hunt season:
Five time Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson is one of the most famous and successful trainers of the modern era. Henderson took out his license in 1978, having been the assistant to Fred Winter, before moving to Seven Barrows in 1992.
Henderson has a Cheltenham Festival record second to none, having sent out no less than 60 festival winners, 7 of which have been in the Champion Hurdle. See You Then registered a hattrick in the race in the 1980’s, a feat he almost managed to emulate with Buvuer D'Air most recently.
Henderson has trained some of the best jumpers in recent years, dominating the two mile division with Sprinter Sacre and Altior. He has also enjoyed Gold Cup success on two occasions with Long Run in 2011 and Bob's Worth in 2013.
Despite having trained over 2000 winners the race that still eludes Nicky Henderson is the Grand National. His first runner in the race was in 1979 with Zongalero, which so far is the best placing he has ever managed, when the horse finished runner-up by just one and a half lengths to Rubustic.
Henderson’s best horses for the 2019/20 season include: Buveur D’Air, Altior, Might Bite, Verdana Blue, Charli Parcs, Top Notch, Apple’s Shakira, We Have A Dream, On The Blind Side, Ok Corral and Santini to name but a few.
If you thought Nicky Henderson’s statistics were impressive then just wait until you read those of Ditcheat handler- Paul Nicholls.
Since setting up there in October 1991, Nicholls has trained 123 Grade One winners, 45 Cheltenham Festival winners, Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, 10 King George VI Chase winners and he has sent out over 3,000 winners.
Horses such as See More Business, Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded, Neptune Collonges, Tidal Bay, Silviniaco Conti and Big Buck’s have all contributed to Nicholls winning 11 trainers’ championships in the last 13 years.
Nicholls will be going into battle once again this season with high class horses like Cyrname, Politologue, Frodon, Clan Des Obeaux and Topofthegame and who would bet against him making it a 12th trainers’ championship with ammo such as that.
A final tally for the season of 135 winners and over £3.3 million prize money is probably the finest achievement the Ditcheat team has managed.
Nigel Twiston-Davies' operation is run from Naunton in the Cotswolds. Twiston-Davies' is the only current British trainer to have saddled two Grand National winners, Earth Summit in 1992 and Bindaree in 2002.
He is also the only current trainer to have won the Grand National more than once and all five races over the national fences races at Aintree.
He has also tasted Gold Cup success with Imperial Commander in 2010, who won the Ryanair Chase the year before and has amassed over 1500 winners. He is also very much part of the Cheltenham Festival landscape having trained nearly 20 winners at his local course.
Twiston-Davies’ most celebrated and proud moments have been watching his two sons on the racetrack. Sam won the Christie's Foxhunter Chase on Baby Run at the age of 17.
William, also on board Baby Run is the youngest jockey to have won the Foxhunter Chase at Aintree, when he was just 16-years-old.
Horses to look out for from Grange Hill Farm this season include: Ballybolley, Bristol de Mai, Calett Mad, Go Conquer, Good Boy Bobby, Splash Of Ginge, Tintern Theatre and Wholestone and some of them may even figure in the Grand National betting at this early juncture.
It’s been 12 years now since Philip Kirby set out training in 2007 in Richmond, North Yorkshire and his operation has become one of the North’s leading training bases with a fantastic team behind him and some lovely horses.
Big-spending owner Darren Yates has moved all but one of his horses, who include Blaklion, Don Poli and Interconnected out of Kirby’s yard this summer, but Kirby still has plenty of high profile horses in his care such as Lady Buttons, December Second, Little Bruce and Top Ville Ben.
Lady Buttons, owned by Jayne and Keith Sivills, has really put Kirby on the map in recent seasons.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post in a recent interview, Kirby said: “She’s been brilliant for us, We’ve had her since she was a foal. She won her Bumper and has just got better and better.
“She managed to win a novice hurdle when not right and that’s when she went wrong and did a tendon. Keith and Jayne gave me as much time as I needed to get her right.
“It’s hard to keep sound ones (horses) sound. It’s even harder when they’ve had a problem.
“But she’s had a real clear run now. She’s a very, very athletic jumper – that’s the main attribute.
“She’s quick, brave and has lots of scopes to go with it. She’s very clever.”
We predict another big season for Kirby this year.
Many have Venetia Williams down as a trainer who only has winners when the weather and the going are atrocious but she is very much more than a one-trick-pony.
Throughout her career, Williams has won many of the top races but none more so than in 2009 when Mon Mome romped home to victory in The Grand National. She became only the second woman in history to achieve such a feat.
Williams regularly finishes in the top ten trainers in the country, often reaching the top five. Recent stars like Aso, currently compete at the highest level alongside her hardy perennials such as Houblon Des Obeaux and Yala Enki.
You can expect to be seeing plenty of Venetia Williams’ runners contesting all the big races throughout the new 2019/20 season and undoubtedly picking up one or two of them.
NB-If you happen to have a bet on who will finish as the top NH trainer this season then you can work out your potential winnings here on our handy betting calculator.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*