Nigel Twiston-Davies

Nowadays, farmer-turned-trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies operates one of the most successful National Hunt yards in the country. From his base at Grange Hill Farm in Naunton, Gloucestershire, he has sent out over 1,500 winners, including 17 winners at the Cheltenham Festival and two Grand National winners.

Formerly a moderately successful amateur rider, Twiston-Davies learned his trade under the auspices of Fred Rimmell, Kim Bailey and David Nicholson, before starting training, under permit, in 1981. He saddled his first winner, Last Of The Foxes, at Hereford the following year, but agricultural recession finally forced him to abandon his farming interests and, in 1989, he took out a public training licence.

In 1992, Twiston-Davies saddled his first winner of the Scottish Grand National, Captain Dibble and, in 1994, his second, Earth Summit. Four years later, in 1998, the latter would complete a notable career treble by winning both the Welsh National and the Grand National. However, it was his second Grand National winner, Bindaree in 2002, which renewed his appetite for National Hunt racing and caused him to abandon plans to wind down his training operation and return to farming. His notable Cheltenham Festival winners include Imperial Commander in the Ryanair Chase in 2009 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010, Blaklion in the RSA Chase in 2016 and Ballyandy in the Champion Bumper in the same year.

Sue Smith

Not to be confused with East Sussex trainer Miss Suzy Smith, Mrs. Sue Smith is married to former champion show jumper Harvey Smith and based at Craiglands Farm, near Bingley, West Yorkshire. Mrs. Smith first took out a public training licence in 1990 and saddled her first winner, the cheaply-bought African Safari, in the Hurst Park Novices’ Chase at Ascot in November that year. However, she is probably best known as the trainer of Auroras Encore, who sprang a 66/1 shock when winning the Grand National in 2013; in so doing, the 11-year-old made Mrs. Smith just the third female trainer, after Jenny Pitman and Venetia Williams, to win the race.

Surprisingly, in her lengthy career, Mrs. Smith has yet to saddle a Grade One winner, but has numerous Listed, Grade Three and Grade Two victories to her name down the years. She has won the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock four times, with The Last Fling in 2000, Arctic Jack in 2004, Cloudy Too in 2016 and Wakanda in 2019, the Grade Three Racing Post Plate at the Cheltenham Festival, with Mister McGoldrick in 2008 and both the Grade Two Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr and the Grade Two Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham, with Midnight Shadow in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Of course, these are just a handful of over 1,000 winners Mrs. Smith has saddled and, although into the veteran stage of her career, she maintains a hungry enthusiasm for the game.

Tom Lacey

Tom Lacey is based at Cottage Field Stables, in the tiny village of Woolhope, in the Ledbury district of rural Herefordshire. Formerly a successful amateur jockey, with 27 point-to-point winners to his name, Lacey learned his trade breaking in, schooling and re-schooling National Hunt horses under the auspices of the late Captain Charles Radclyffe and as a pupil assistant trainer and head lad.

Lacey started training, in his own right, in the 2012/13 National Hunt season and, after a low-key start – he failed to break into double-figures in his first four seasons – increased his seasonal tally to 21 winners in 2016/17. His ‘breakthrough’ season, though, was 2017/18, in which he saddled 39 winners, including Vado Forte in the totepool Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton, Jester Jet in the Grade Three Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle at Aintree and Thomas Patrick in the Grade Three Betway Handicap Chase, also at Aintree, and amassed over £359,000 in total earnings.

In 2018/19, Lacey recorded two more high-profile victories at Listed level, courtesy of Glory And Fortune in the EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club at Cheltenham and Jester Jet, again, in the Mares’ Hurdle at Warwick. All told, in the last five National Hunt seasons he has saddled 107 winners from 527 runners, at a strike rate of 20%, and has recorded an impressive level stakes profit of 101.4 points.

Warren Greatrex

Warren Greatrex is based at Uplands Stables in Upper Lambourn, near Hungerford, Berkshire – the yard made famous by eight-time champion National Hunt trainer Fred Winter – which he has occupied since 2012. Formerly assistant trainer to Oliver Sherwood, with whom he spent nine years, and private trainer to Malcolm Denmark at nearby Weathercock House, where he spent a further three seasons, Greatrex moved to Uplands with a dozen or so horses but, in the interim, has increased the size of his string to eighty or more.

In the 2018/19 National Hunt season, Greatex saddled 38 winners, 20 fewer than his best ever seasonal tally of 58 winners, which he achieved in 2016/17. However, thanks in no small part to a Grade One win, in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton, and a Grade Two win, in the Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase at Newbury, on British soil by his stable star, La Bague Au Roi, he enjoyed his most lucrative campaign yet, with total earnings in excess of £563,000. Indeed, La Bague Au Roi, who also won the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown, was his first Grade One winner on home soil since Cole Harden – officially rated 164 in his prime and, arguably, his best horse ever – won the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015.

Olly Murphy

Oliver ‘Olly’ Murphy is the son of well-known bloodstock agent Aiden Murphy and retired trainer Anabel Murphy (née King). A former amateur rider, Murphy Jnr. spent four years as assistant trainer to Gordon Elliott before taking out a training licence in his own right, at the age of 25, in 2017. He is based at Warren Chase Stables in Wilmcote, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

A dual-purpose trainer, Murphy saddled a winner with his very first runner, Dove Mountain, in a mile-and-a-quarter handicap at Brighton in July, 2017. In the 2017/18 National Hunt season, he saddled 47 winners, including Hunters Call in the Grade Three Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot, and won nearly £383,000 in prize money. In 2018/19, he increased his seasonal tally to 82 winners, including Itchy Feet in the Listed Matchbook Time To Move Over Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton and Fielsole in the Core Spreads Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton, and his total earnings to nearly £663,000.

In his fledgling career, Murphy has yet to saddle a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, but trained Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet to finish second and third in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019, so it must surely only be a matter of time before he breaks his duck at the March showpiece meeting. At the time of writing, he has saddled 20 winners from 86 runners under National Hunt Rules in 2019/20, at an increased strike rate of 23%, so remains one to keep an eye on in the training ranks.