Nicky Henderson


Nicky Henderson 2023

One of the biggest names in UK horse racing, it is fair to say that Nicky Henderson has been there and done it all before. All except with the Grand National, the biggest prize in UK racing and something that has eluded the Lambourn trainer since he took to the ranks in 1978.

Before that, he was assistant to the great Fred Winter and had his father to look up to, Johnny Henderson, one of the founders of the Racecourse Holdings Trust. He’s spent his entire career at the Seven Barrows yard in Lambourn, one that has become a hotbed of talent over the years, with some racing superstars passing through.

In 2020, Nicky Henderson was awarded an OBE for his services to racing in the New Year Honours List, highlighting what an incredible career he’d had and how important he had become to the national hunt scene.

From struggling to win the Grand National to a vast number of Cheltenham Festival and big race wins, it’s been a long, dominant career for Henderson, which isn’t over yet.

Nicky Henderson Grand National Wins

Nicky Henderson has never trained a horse that has won the Grand National.

Their best finish to date was in 1987 with The Tsarevich ridden by John White who came 2nd.

Full Results

Year Horse Result Prize Money Jockey
2023 Mister Coffey 8 £15,000 Nico de Boinville
2021 Ok Corral Fence 21 - Pulled Up - Mr Derek O’Connor
2019 Valtor 18 - Daryl Jacob
2017 Cocktails At Dawn Fence 1 - Fell - Nico de Boinville
2016 Hadrian's Approach Fence 1 - Unseated Rider - Nico de Boinville
2016 Triolo d'Alene 14 - Jeremiah McGrath
2014 Hunt Ball 17 - Andrew Tinkler
2014 Triolo d'Alene Fence 22 - Pulled Up - Barry Geraghty
2014 Long Run Fence 9 - Fell - Mr Sam Waley-Cohen
2014 Shakalakaboomboom Fence 20 - Pulled Up - David Bass
2013 Roberto Goldback Fence 30 - Unseated Rider - Barry Geraghty
2012 Shakalakaboomboom 9 £1,950 Barry Geraghty
2009 Fleet Street Fence 18 - Unseated Rider - Andrew Tinkler
2009 Golden Flight Fence 1 - Fell - Barry Geraghty
2007 Libertine 5 £18,760 Mr Sam Waley-Cohen
2006 Iris Royal Fence 17 - Pulled Up - Marcus Foley
2006 Juveigneur Fence 1 - Fell - Mick Fitzgerald
2005 Fondmort Fence 28 - Pulled Up - Mick Fitzgerald
2003 Katarino Fence 15 - Unseated Rider - Mick Fitzgerald
2002 Marlborough Fence 1 - Fell - Mick Fitzgerald
2002 Goguenard Fence 1 - Fell - Warren Marston
2001 Esprit De Cotte Fence 11 - Refused - Tom Doyle
2000 Esprit De Cotte Fence 22 - Fell - Mick Fitzgerald
1999 Fiddling The Facts Fence 22 - Fell - Mick Fitzgerald
1998 Pashto Fence 1 - Fell - John Kavanagh
1995 Tinryland Fence 1 - Fell - Mick Fitzgerald
1994 Henry Mann Fence 1 - Fell - Charlie Swan
1993 Wont Be Gone Long Fence 0 - Did Not Start - Richard Dunwoody
1992 Brown Windsor Fence 6 - Fell - Richard Dunwoody
1991 Ten of Spades 14 - John White
1991 Master Bob Fence 19 - Pulled Up - Jamie Osborne
1990 Brown Windsor 4 £5,644 John White
1988 The Tsarevich 7 - John White
1987 Classified Fence 24 - Unseated Rider - Steve Smith-Eccles
1987 The Tsarevich 2 £48,005 John White
1986 Classified 3 £7,235 Steve Smith-Eccles
1986 The Tsarevich 7 - John White
1985 Classified 5 - John White
1983 Spartan Missile Fence 22 - Unseated Rider - Hywel Davies
1982 Sun Lion Fence 3 - Fell - Steve Smith-Eccles
1981 Zongalero Fence 22 - Fell - Steve Smith-Eccles
1980 Zongalero Fence 20 - Refused - Steve Smith-Eccles
1979 Zongalero 2 £10,446 Bob Davies

Grand National Near Misses

Nicky Henderson horse trainer at grand nationalDespite having many chances, including some very good ones over the years, Nicky Henderson is still yet to taste success in the Grand National. His first runner in the race came just a year after taking out his training license, which shows the respect he’d already got in the game, and it was also one of his near misses.

Zongalero was the horse in question, running in the 1979 Grand National and finishing second behind Rubstic. The horse appeared to hold a good chance of winning heading into the final furlong but was outstayed up the hill. While second on his first attempt to win the race was an excellent start for Henderson, it was also a sign of how his story with the race would pan out.

His next four runners would all fail to complete the course before a run of six years in which Henderson went close on several occasions, but the race eluded him. The horse Classified came 5th in 1985 and then went closer to come 3rd in 1986, then a year later, The Tsarevich went closer, still coming second, while things were rounded off with Brown Windsor coming 4th in 1990.

Since then, the race has not been favourable to Henderson, despite him having many runners in the contest, and only on rare occasions he’s come close to having success. With so many wins over the years in other big contests, some of the biggest in the game, he will continue to push hard and try to ensure that the Grand National doesn’t become the one that got away.

Cheltenham Festival Success

A meeting that certainly cannot be described as one that got away for Henderson is the Cheltenham Festival. It has been central to his success as a trainer, he’s got over 70 Cheltenham Festival winners in total, and that includes winning every one of the feature races on multiple occasions, not just once.

Of the main races, it is the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase that people will associate Henderson with the most. Superstars such as See You Then, Buveur d’Air and Constitution Hill have all won the Champion Hurdle for Team Henderson. When it comes to the Champion Chase, he’s had Sprinter Sacre and Altior carrying the flag, both winning that race twice.

The races that Henderson has won over the years would be enough to describe most trainers as highly successful at the Cheltenham Festival. Still, for many of them, Henderson has actually won them on multiple occasions. Going back time and time again with fancied runners and ensuring they are trained perfectly for the day, giving them the best chance to win a big prize.

Given the quality of horses still in the Henderson yard and the number of runners, he sends to the Cheltenham Festival, adding further to that already impressive total looks highly likely.

Ban From Racing in 2009

While there has been a lot of success over the years for Nicky Henderson, a sour moment in 2009 has taken the shine off things a little for some people. Henderson was banned from having runners for three months after he was found guilty of breaching the rules of racing by the BHA.

He was found to have given an anti-bleeding drug to a horse who, at the time, was owned by The Queen. The public feeling against Henderson was certainly heightened due to the owner of the horse, and when four charges were put against him about the case, he admitted to three of them. Henderson admitted the horse should not have been given the drug but argued that it was done with welfare in mind and not to enhance the performance of the horse.

He was banned from having runners for three months but still allowed to train horses during this period. On top of that, he was fined £40,000, which was a record fine given to anyone in the sport at the time.

When the punishment was handed out, there was a lot of talk that it wasn’t strong enough because of the timing. With Henderson training mainly jumps runners, he is very quiet in the summer, and the ban was handed out in July, meaning he was able to return in October, just in time for the start of the new national hunt season.

Flat horses that were affected by the ban were sent to Barry Hills, who trained close by in Lambourn and was a lifelong friend of Henderson’s, while the jumps horses in the yard saw little if any, impact on their schedules.

When the ban was over, Henderson returned to saddling runners himself. Still, there was undoubtedly a bit of bad feeling towards him, mainly because of the owner in question rather than the offence that had been committed. Further tests were completed on other horses in the yard both during and after the ban, but no other issues were found.