Who was John Dunlop?

John Dunlop, who retired from the training ranks at the end of the 2012 Flat season and died in July, 2018, at the age of 78, after a long illness, was a doyen of British horse racing for nearly half a century. Born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire on July 10, 1939, Dunlop became assistant trainer to Gordon Smyth at Castle Stables in Arundel, West Sussex in 1963. Two years later, in 1965, Smyth moved to Heath House Stables in Lewes, East Sussex, on the retirement of John ‘Towser’ Gosden and Dunlop took over the licence as private trainer to Bernard Fitzalan-Howard,16th Duke of Norfolk, and his wife, Lavinia.

Dunlop had the distinction of saddling Hatta, the first British winner in the now familiar maroon and white silks of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at Brighton in 1977. In 1983, he also saddled British Horse of the Year Habibti to win the July Cup, William Hill Sprint Championship, Vernons Sprint Cup and Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp. Dunlop was Champion Trainer just once, in 1995, but, at the peak of his powers, had over 200 horses in his charge. All told, he trained over 3,500 winners, including ten British Classic winners. He never won the 2,000 Guineas, but won the 1,000 Guineas and the St. Leger three times apiece and the Derby and the Oaks twice apiece. Habibiti aside, arguably the best horse he ever trained was Shirley Heights, winner of the Derby and the Irish Derby in 1978.

Who is Sir Michael Stoute?

Born on October 22, 1945 on the Caribbean island of Barbados, Sir Michael Stoute has been a leading light in British horse racing for decades. In fact, he was Champion Trainer ten times between 1981 and 2009, yet was awarded a knighthood, in 1998, for services to tourism in his native country. Having narrowly lost out, to Julian Wilson, as the new BBC Television racing correspondent in 1965, Stoute subsequently became assistant trainer to the late Hubert Patrick ‘Pat’ Rohan in Norton, County Durham, before taking out a training licence in his own right in 1972.

All told, Stoute has won the Derby five times, most notably with Shergar in 1981 and Workforce in 2010. The fate of Shergar, kidnapped from the Ballymany Stud in County Kildare, Ireland two years later is an abiding mystery, but his ten-length winning margin remains the widest in the history of the Epsom Classic. Workforce won the Derby by just seven lengths but, in so doing, beat the previous track record for the mile-and-a-half at Epsom, set by Lammtarra 25 years earlier, by nearly a second.

Stoute is also the most successful trainer in the history of Royal Ascot, have beaten the previous record of 75 winners, set by the late Sir Henry Cecil, when Poet’s Word won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes in 2018. Stoute has since saddled four more winners at the Royal Meeting, most recently Crystal Ocean, also in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, in 2019, to extend his career total to 80 winners.

Who is Aidan O’Brien?

Born on October 16, 1969 in County Wexford, Ireland, Aidan O’Brien has, since 1996, has been private trainer to Irish business magnate John Magnier at Ballydoyle Racing Stable, County Tipperary. Magnier is married to Susan O’Brien, daughter of Vincent O’Brien, co-founder of the Coolmore Stud breeding operation in 1975.

Prior to succeeding Vincent O’Brien as ‘Master of Ballydoyle’, Aidan O’Brien had, like his unrelated namesake, been a highly successful National Hunt trainer. In fact, he won Irish National Hunt trainers’ championship in Ireland five seasons running between 1993/94 and 1997/98 and famously trained Istabraq to three consecutive wins in the Champion Hurdle in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

By that stage of his career, O’Brien had already become the youngest-ever winner of the Irish Flat trainers’ championship, in 1997, and was well on his way to becoming the outstanding trainer of his generation. Indeed, he has been Irish champion trainer every year, bar one, since, and British champion trainer on six occasions, most recently in 2017.O’Brien is the leading trainer in the history of the 2,000 Guineas, with 10 wins, including three in a row between 2017 and 2019, courtesy of Churchill, Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia. He is also, jointly, the leading trainer in the history of the Derby, with 7 wins, most recently with Anthony Van Dyck in 2019. In 2017, O’Brien trained 28 Group One or Grade One winners in a calendar year, thereby beating the previous record, 25, set by the late Bobby Frankel in 2003.

Who is Nicky Henderson?

Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Henderson is the son of the late Major John ‘Johnny’ Henderson, a founder of the Racecourse Holdings Trust and, as such, credited with helping safeguard the future of Cheltenham Racecourse in the Sixties. The name of Nicky Henderson, too, is synonymous with Cheltenham, predominantly the Cheltenham Festival, where he has saddled 68 winners, making him the second most successful trainer in history, behind only perennial Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins.

Indeed, Henderson is the leading trainer in the history of both the Champion Hurdle, which he has won eight times and, jointly, alongside Tom Dreaper and Paul Nicholls, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which he has won six times. He has also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Stayers’ Hurdle twice apiece.

Henderson has also won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship six times including, most recently, in 2019/20. The National Hunt season was brought to a premature end on March 25, as the result of the coronavirus pandemic but, at its close, Henderson had saddled 118 winners, including 15 at Graded level and, more importantly, amassed £2.53 million in total prize money; his seasonal total was £192,550 higher than his nearest rival, reigning Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls.

Henderson, who turns 70 in December, 2020, began his training career as assistant to eight-time Champion Trainer Fred Winter in 1974, before taking out a training licence in his own right four years later. He is currently based at Seven Barrows in Upper Lambourn, Berkshire, the yard to which he moved in 1992.

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