When it comes to horse training, Ireland seems to produce the cream of the crop. One of the most popular spectator sports in the Emerald Isle, horse racing has a long tradition which, unsurprisingly, has seen its trainers dominate the British circuit. Here are five of the best.
The name Willie Mullins is a household one in horse racing. The County Kilkenny-born started training racehorses in 1988 and never looked back. His record his impressive with 65 Cheltenham winners and 19 winners in Britain.
Mullins finally trained the Grand National winner in 2005 as well as the 2011 and 2013 Champion Hurdle race at Cheltenham. In 2015 he achieved a record of eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
With the most winners trained in Ireland – a record set in 2000 with 2,578 – Dermot Weld is a special kind of trainer. His experience spans worldwide as the Irishman has tasted success in all five Irish classics and has saddled big race winners on four different continents.
His success does not stop there with Weld winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas four times, albeit with a 28-year gap between his first success (Princes Polly, 1982) and his most recent (Bethrah, 2010). He also won four consecutive Irish St Legers from 2001 to 2004 with Vinnie Roe which set him on his way to a remarkable 4000th winner in 2016.
The most youthful of the bunch at the ripe age of 50, Aidan O’Brien came to the fore as the trainer of the great Istabraq, winner of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham for three years in succession.
O’Brien has also enjoyed 11 Irish Derby wins to his name and trained Rock of Gibraltar to seven consecutive Grade 1 victories between 2001 and 2002.
Another of O’Brien’s horses, High Chaparral, won both the English and Irish Derbies in 2002.
After some years without success, he came back with a bang in 2008, producing an outstanding 23 Grade 1 winners in a single season, while Henrythenavigator took first place in both the Irish and English 2,000 Guineas.
Perhaps even more impressive, O’Brien also had the honour of training the winner of the Irish Derby for seven years in a row between 2006 and 2012.
Just over 50 himself, Gordon Elliott has risen to fame in a short space of time. Despite never even training a winner in Ireland up to this point, in 2007, Elliott became the youngest trainer in history to win the Grand National with Silver Birch.
Though enduring a few barren years, Elliott returned to the winners’ circle to scoop up the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2016 and followed this up by becoming the top trainer in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and in 2018.
From then on, Elliott has become arguably the greatest trainer in the world, triumphing in the most prestigious event in the horseracing calendar – the Grand National – in 2018 with Tiger Roll. Even more impressively, Elliott trained Tiger Roll to back-to-back Grand National victories with success in 2019 and don’t be surprised if many horse racing predictions have him in line for a hat-trick in 2020.