We have a number of giants in the national hunt racing world. We all know who they are. The likes of Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson need no introduction at all. So when compiling this list, it’s best to steer clear of those names in a bid to avoid saying the obvious.
With that in mind, we look outside the box here and go with other names that are worth following this year.
Here are five trainers to follow in 2023.
The Scottish-based Lucinda Russell kicks us off, a woman who now looks set to have a mix of high-quality horses for the bigger races and plenty of depth to go out and win races on the Northern circuit.
A Grade One winner over both hurdles and fences, Ahoy Senor, leads the yard and is a horse that can take Lucinda to the big races. He finished 2022 with a fifth-placed effort in the King George and looks to be Gold Cup bound. Go back to February 2022, and you will see he beat the Grand National winner that year, Noble Yeats, over fences, showing what quality this horse has.
Corach Rambler is next of the line, a Cheltenham Festival winner in 2022. He looks like the ideal long-distance chaser for Russell and may even find himself in the Grand National. With these two, and then a strong team to hit the Northern circuit, this looks set to be a big year for the Lucinda Russell yard.
The Irish handler will probably never step out of Willie Mullins’s shadow. Emmet is Willie’s nephew and made a career out of racing, but of course, not anywhere near the same level. Things may get a little closer, though, in 2023, with Emmet having a huge name to go to war with and hopefully seeing further recruits due to a lot of success.
That horse is Noble Yeats, winner of the 2022 Grand National on a day that put Emmet in the spotlight. His plans for the 2023 season include both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Aintree Grand National again. He has a chance in both, and if he happens to land one of them, or run very well in one of them, the light on Emmet is only going to shine brighter.
Expect winners at home in Ireland, and if things go right with Noble Yeats, this could be the year where he gains a handful of new horses and really kicks on to challenge those at the top of Irish racing.
There has been talk around Fergal O’Brien emerging as a bigger player in national hunt racing for the past two or three years, but he’s fallen short. Is this the year he finally makes it? He’s not going to be at the bigger meetings with star horses, but in terms of the regular racing schedule, this could be the year he takes the next step.
With Graeme McPherson on board to help, the team is moving forward, and the numbers in the yard are growing. This could be the year where things go very big. This is a 12-month yard, with runners in the summer, so expect plenty of ammunition and, with that, hopefully, plenty of winners.
The big table is still some years away, but in terms of numbers and winners at any level, this could be the year where things really take a big step forward with this yard.
If you look back to the 2022 season, there is no doubt that Donald McCain further strengthened his grip on the Northern racing circuit, and moving forward, he could dominate even further. Just like Fergal O’Brien, we may not see Donald McCain in the big winners’ enclosure over the course of 2023, but what we will see is him in there a lot.
The Northern racing scene has been home to McCain for many years, and the quality up north seems to get better. But not everyone is going along with that, and McCain looks to be strengthening, while others, with a couple of exceptions, are dropping behind.
He’s another who likes to have runners for 12 months of the year, so if you are looking for someone to follow that has regular winners, and more importantly, regular winners this year, then Donald McCain may be your man for the north.
A stalwart of national hunt racing in the south of England and someone known for having horses who thrive over fences, long trips and, more often than not, on soft ground. She’s finally got a good one to go to war with, even though he’s currently injured, and that horse is L’Homme Presse.
He would’ve been in the Gold Cup but has been ruled out, we may see him in the spring, if not, then you can expect to see him next winter in races such as the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George at Kempton.
Known for having success with handicappers, sometimes in the top races, Williams now has a true graded racing star to fly the flag for her yard. She may not have much success in the summer, with few runners and horses not suited to conditions, but Venetia Williams is one to follow when the going is tough and you need someone on your side.