Formerly assistant to eight-time champion trainer Fred Winter, Nicky Henderson first took out a public training licence in 1978 and, in just over four decades since, has established himself as one of the most successful trainers of the modern era. As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, in recent years Henderson has been unable to keep tabs on the likes of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, but invariably features in the top two or three in the betting for the leading trainer award.
Indeed, Henderson has won the leading trainer award on nine occasions, most recently in 2012, and his career total of 60 Cheltenham Festival winners puts him in clear second-place, behind only Willie Mullins, in the all-time list. Henderson saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, The Tsarevitch, in the Mildmay of Flete Challenge Cup in 1985 and, in the interim, has won all of the Grade One races run at the March showpiece meeting at least once.
The horse that brought Henderson to the attention of the racing public was the talented, but fragile – not to mention notoriously bad-tempered – See You Then, whom he saddled to win the Champion Hurdle three years running in 1985, 1986 and 1987. Of course, Henderson is by no means a ‘one-trick pony’ and, since moving to Seven Barrows Stables in Lambourn, Berkshire in 1992, has won the Champion Hurdle four more times – with Punjabi in 2009, Binocular in 2010 and Buveur D’Air in 2017 and 2018 – to become the leading trainer in the history of the two-mile hurdling championship.
Henderson is also the leading trainer in the history of the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Triumph Hurdle, having won both races six times and, the Champion Hurdle aside, his record in the three other ‘championship’ races is no less enviable. He has won the Queen Mother Champion Chase five times, including twice with Sprinter Sacre – the third highest-rated steeplechaser since the early Sixties, according to Timeform – the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice and the Stayers’ Hurdle twice.