Born in 1889, Norah Wilmot was the eldest daughter of Sir Robert Rodney Wilmot, Sixth Baronet of Osmaston, and had the distinction of being the first female trainer in Britain to ‘officially’ saddle a winner. She did so when her filly, Pat, won at Brighton on August 4, 1966, the day after the Jockey Club finally capitulated and granted a training licence to two women, the other being Florence Nagle. Ms. Wilmot was 77 years old.
Norah Wilmot had worked as assistant horse racing trainer to her father for twenty years prior to his death in 1931 and, thereafter, having inherited Binfield Grove Stud in Bracknell, Berkshire, continued to train racehorses in an ‘unofficial’ capacity with no little success. Although eminently capable, Ms. Wilmot was forbidden by the Jockey Club from holding a training licence in her own right so, as she was unmarried, the training licence was officially held by a series of head lads in her employment. Although not officially acknowledged as a trainer until her dotage, Ms. Wilmot completed the Goodwood Cup – Doncaster Cup double with Haulfryn in 1937 and, at one point, her owners included Queen Elizabeth II.
Unsurprisingly, Richard Hannon Jnr. is the son of four-time Champion Trainer Richard Hannon Snr., from whom he officially took over the training licence on January 1, 2014. Hannon Jnr. is, in fact, one of triplets; his brother, Henry, is a property dealer and his sister, Elizabeth, is the wife of jockey-turned-trainer Richard Hughes.
Born on November 21, 1975, Hannon Jnr. worked as assistant trainer to his father for twelve years and made an immediate impact in his debut season as a trainer in his own right. His first runner, Unscripted, won a maiden stakes at Wolverhampton by ten lengths on January 3 and, buoyed by the patronage of leading owner Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, never really looked back. He won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket with Night Of Thunder, the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury with Olympic Glory and the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot among many other high-profile races. At the end of the 2014 season, he had racked up 206 winners and earned £4.7 million in prize money, which was sufficient for him to succeed his father as Champion Trainer.
Hannon Jnr. has developed a reputation for his ability to produce precocious juveniles, but has continued to enjoy success across all age groups. In 2018, he won the 1,000 Guineas for the first time with Billesdon Brook – at 66/1, the longest-priced winner in the history of the first fillies’ Classic – and has won at least one Group One race in every season since taking over from his father
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.
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.