Who are the trainers to follow at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival?

It's the nature of racing, isn't it… the jockeys grab the glory after getting their horse home in front, but without their equine partner being produced to deliver the goods on the day, there would be no Cheltenham Festival glory. So who should you follow? Who are the trainers who have proved they can deliver the goods on the biggest stage of all?

(NB: Until final declarations all horses and the races they are entered in are subject to change)

Willie Mullins - 78 Cheltenham winners

The master of Closutton has become a Cheltenham phenomenon. A record 88 winners have been sent out from Willie Mullins' County Carlaw yard and he looks certain to raise the bar even higher in March.

With the quality of thoroughbred at his disposal it would be a surprise if anyone else becomes the first to train 100 winners at the Festival and at recent rates that may only be two or three years away. Mullins waited a long time to saddle his first Gold Cup winner but, like the proverbial London bus, once he did so, he struck again immediately with 2019 and 2020 winner Al Boum Photo. He's also won four Champion Hurdles, five Ryanair Chases, four Arkle Trophies, two Stayers' Hurdles, seven Supreme Novices' Hurdles, nine Mares' Hurdles and a Queen Mother Champion Chase and much more. Anything saddled by this man across the four days of the Festival merits the closest of scrutiny. Mullins was leading trainer at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival with a staggering 10 wins.

Leading fancies at Cheltenham 2023:

Tuesday, March 14: Facile Vega (Supreme), Il Etait Temps (Supreme); El Fabiolo (Arkle) Dysart Dyanmo (Arkle); State Man (Champion Hurdle) Vauban (Champion Hurdle); Brandy Love (Mares' Hurdle), Echoes In Rain (Mares' Hurdle)

Wednesday, March 15: Gaelic Warrior (Ballymore); Energumene (Champion Chase); Sir Gerhard (Brown Advisory); It's For Me (Champion Bumper)

Thursday, March 16: El Fabiolo (Turners' Novice) Appreciate It (Turners' Novice); Blue Lord (Ryanair Chase), Janidil (Ryanair Chase); Klassical Dream (Stayers' Hurdle); Ashroe Diamond (Mares Novices')

Friday, March 17: Lossiemouth (Triumph Hurdle); Galopin Des Champs (Gold Cup); Allegorie De Vassy (Mares Novices')

Best chances: Lossiemouth and Galopin Des Champs

Nicky Henderson - 72 Cheltenham winners

Nicky Henderson
Nicky Henderson

Henderson began training in 1978 and has now trained an incredible 72 Cheltenham Festival winners. Of those, Long Run (2011) and Bobs Worth (2013) won the Gold Cup, while See You Then won the Champion Hurdle in 1985, '86 and '87. There have been other brilliant performers at the Festival for him too, in the shape of dual Champion Chase winners Sprinter Sacre and another who landed the two-mile championship, Remittance Man. Constitution Hill won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2022, and is the favourite to win the Champion Hurdle in 2023.

Leading fancies at Cheltenham 2023:

Tuesday, March 14: Jonbon (Arkle); Constitution Hill (Champion Hurdle); Epatane (Mares' Hurdle) Marie's Rock (Mares' Hurdle)

Wednesday, March 15: No Ordinary Joe (Coral Cup)

Thursday, March 16: Luccia (Mares' Novice Hurdle); Shishkin (Ryanair Chase); Marie's Rock (Stayers' Hurdle)

Friday, March 17: Shishkin (Gold Cup)

Best chances: Jonbon, Constitution Hill and Shishkin

Paul Nicholls - 46 Cheltenham winners

Along with Henderson, Nicholls has set the standard at Cheltenham and these is no doubting his status as one of the greats. The Ditcheat maestro was responsible for two modern greats in Kauto Star, the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup (2007, 2009) and Denman, who won the race in 2008 and was runner-up on three further occasions. A total of 46 Festival winners have been sent out from his yard, six of them successful in the Champion Chase, including spectacular dual winner Master Minded (2008, 2009). He also won four successive Stayers' Hurdles with Big Buck's (2009-2012) and he has a Champion Hurdle and three Ryanair Chases on his CV. However, Nicholls has drawn a blank at the last two Cheltenham Festivals.

Leading fancies at Cheltenham 2023:

Tuesday, March 14: Tahmuras (Supreme)

Wednesday, March 15: Hermes Allen (Ballymore Novices Hurdle); Threeunderthrufive (Ultima Handicap Chase); Stage Star (Brown Advisory)

Thursday, March 16: Stage Star (Turners Novices'); Hitman (Ryanair Chase)

Friday, March 17: Hermes Allen (Albert Bartlett); Bravemansgame (Gold Cup)

Best chances: Hermes Allen and Bravemansgame

Gordon Elliott - 34 Cheltenham winners

Gordon Elliott
Gordon Elliott

One man who could seriously challenge Mullins and Henderson at the top of the Cheltenham tree is Gordon Elliott. He was born in the year that Henderson took out a licence but has wasted no time in winning just about every big pot you can think of. Already on the 34-winner mark at the Cheltenham Festival, Elliott saddled 2016 Gold Cup winner Don Cossack and also Tiger Roll, who has won four Festival races in addition to his two Grand Nationals.

Leading fancies at Cheltenham 2023:

Tuesday, March 14: Doctor Bravo (Supreme Novices'); The Goffer (Ultima Handicap); Queens Brook (Close Brothers)

Wednesday, March 15: Gerri Colombe (Brown Advisory), Mighty Potter (Brown Advisory); Delta Work (Glenfarclas Chase), Galvin (Glenfarclas Chase)

Thursday, March 16: Mighty Potter (Turners Novices'); Teahupoo (Stayers' Hurdle); Conflated (Ryanair Chase) Fury Road (Ryanair Chase)

Friday, March 17: Three Card Brag (Albert Bartlett); Conflated (Gold Cup)

Best chances: Mighty Potter and Delta Work

Henry de Bromhead - 18 Cheltenham winners

De Bromhead did not train his first Festival winner until 2010 but has now chalked up 18 of them from his base at Knockeen, County Waterford. Three of those have come in the Queen Mother Champion Chase through Sizing Europe (2011), Special Tiara (2017) and Put The Kettle On (2021). The 50-year-old trainer also saddled a Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double in 2021, with Honeysuckle winning the former and Minella Indo the latter. He did it again in 2022 with Honeysuckle winning the Champion Hurdle again, and A Plus Tard lifting the Gold Cup.

Leading fancies at Cheltenham 2023:

Tuesday, March 14: Inthepocket (Supreme); Honeysuckle (Mares' Hurdle)

Wednesday, March 15: Inthepocket (Ballymore Novices' Hurdle)

Thursday, March 16: Journey With Me (Turners Novices'); Envoi Allen (Ryanair Chase); Foxy Girl, Ladybank and Magical Zoe (Mares' Novices')

Friday, March 17: Monty's Star and Hiddenvalley Lake (Albert Bartlett); A Plus Tard (Gold Cup)

Best chance: Honeysuckle

Jonjo O'Neill - 26 Cheltenham winners

One of the few trainers to have both ridden and trained the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, O'Neill was twice champion jockey. Although he has not managed to emulate that feat as a trainer, since taking out a licence in the late 1980s, John Joseph O'Neill has saddled 28 Cheltenham Festival winners. The first of those came in the 1991 Coral Golden Hurdle Final, when Danny Connors roared up the hill to victory in the famous green and gold hoops of J P McManus. In total, half of O'Neill's 28 winners have carried those silks, the most notable being the Cheltenham Gold Cup win by Synchronised in 2012, under Sir Anthony McCoy. Other major successes at the meeting have been two Ryanair Chases with Albertas Run (2010 & 2011) and two World Hurdles (now Stayers' Hurdle) with Iris's Gift (2004) and More Of That (2014). The master of Jackdaw's Castle, which is local to Prestbury Park, endured a Cheltenham Festival drought between 2016 and 2021. That ended that when Sky Pirate won the 2021 Grand Annual under Nick Scholfield. Nine of O'Neill's wins have come in handicaps, and his runners are always worth looking at in that sphere, while six of those 28 have been in one race, the National Hunt Challenge Cup, so it certainly pays to give close scrutiny to anything he runs in that contest.

Leading fancies at Cheltenham 2023:

Tuesday, March 14: Monbeg Genius (Ultima)

Thursday, March 16: An Tailliur (Pertemps) Iron Bridge (Kim Muir)

Dan Skelton - 4 Cheltenham winners

Dan Skelton
Dan Skelton

Definitely one for the future, Skelton only 'graduated' to winning Festival races as recently as 2019 and at the moment has four winners to his name. His time will come. Note that three of his four winners were delivered in the unbelievably competitive County Handicap Hurdle. Surely it is just a matter of time before the Alcester handler is winning championship races, and anything he saddles in Cheltenham week merits respect.

Leading fancies at Cheltenham 2023:

Tuesday, March 14: Punta Del Este (Juvenile Handicap Hurdle)

Wednesday, March 15: Galia Des Liteaux (Brown Advisory); Langer Dan (Coral Cup); Nube Negra (Champion Chase)

Thursday, March 16: Midnight River (Cheltenham Plate); She's A Saint and Kateira (Mares' Novices')

Friday, March 17: Punta Del Este (Triumph Hurdle); Pembroke (McCoy Contractors) Protektorat (Gold Cup); Galia Des Liteaux (Mares' Chase)

Alan King - 16 Cheltenham winners

One of the best in the business as a dual purpose trainer, Alan King has trained 16 Cheltenham Festival winners and is another trainer whose runners at the event are always to be respected. A former assistant to the legendary David Nicholson, King once occupied the Jackdaw's Castle yard that is now home to Jonjo O'Neill, before moving to his current home at Barbury Castle in June 2000. Although King is yet to win a Gold Cup, he has won many of the other major prizes during the week. Top of that list would be Vor Por Ustedes' win in the 2007 Queen Mother Champion Chase. King has also won a Champion Hurdle with Katchit (2008); a Stayers' Hurdle with My Way De Solzen (2006); a Ryanair Chase with Uxizandre (2015), three Arkles (Voy Por Ustedes, 2006; My Way De Solzen, 2007, Edwardstone, 2022) and two Triumph Hurdles (Penzance, 2002; Katchit, 2007).

King broke his Festival drought with Edwardstone in 2022, before then he been without a winner since Uxizandre in 2015, which was the longest he had gone without success since Fork Lightning produced his first win at the meeting in 2004.

Leading fancies at Cheltenham 2023:

Wednesday, March 15: Edwardstone (Champion Chase) Thursday, March 16: Sceau Royal (Ryanair Chase)

Friday, March 17: Qoya (Triumph Hurdle)

Best chance: Edwardstone

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