Horse trainers are rarely the stars of the track, a place where jockeys and horses usually revel in the spotlight. However, trainers are the true salt of equine sports and should be acknowledged for their immense contribution to this wonderful tradition. It is hard to imagine just how much heart, blood, sweat and tears is invested in the training of race horses, and it is almost unbelievable how talented some individuals are when it comes to training the majestic thoroughbred.
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Aidan O'Brien is one of the best-known trainers of race horses currently operating in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Since 1995 O'Brien has been working at Ballydoyle, an iconic racehorse training facility in County Tipperary, Ireland. Thanks to O'Brien's incredible efforts, Ballydoyle has become known as a genuine champion factory; O'Brien has trained winners in almost every major flat racing event in the UK and Ireland, and has also celebrated successes in France and the United States. O'Brien holds the record of most successful trainer at the Irish Derby (8 wins), the Irish 2,000 Guineas (6 wins) and is tied as the best trainer at the Phoenix Stakes (11 wins) and the Irish Champion Stakes (5 wins).
This South Australian legend has long been celebrated in his homeland and still holds icon status years after his retirement. Cummings, who started training horses as an independent trainer in 1953, has one particular claim to fame: he trained twelve winners of the Melbourne Cup, Australia's most prestigious horse race, earning himself the unofficial title of 'Cup King'. Since 2008 the New South Wales Horse Racing Authority awards the Bart Cummings Medal for trainers or jockeys who have given consistent outstanding performances throughout the season. Cummings has been immortalised in Australia's Sporting Hall Of Fame and Racing Hall Of Fame, and on postage stamps, and has been a member of the Order Of Australia since 1982.
Australia has found their very own version of Henrietta Knight in the highly talented Gai Waterhouse. Scottish-born Waterhouse explored many other avenues of employment before settling as a trainer of race horses, including a stint as an actress. In 1992 Waterhouse obtained her training license and never looked back. Since then, she has trained Dance Hero, winner of the Golden Slipper; Victoria Derby winner and Melbourne Cup runner-up Nothin' Leica Dane; and Te Akau Nick, winner of the Metropolitan Handicap in 1992. In 2000, Waterhouse was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for outstanding contribution to thoroughbred racing.
As one of the very few female trainers in the same success bracket as their male counterparts, Henrietta Knight has gained a terrific reputation amongst racing professionals. Knight started her official in 1989, although she had trained over 100 winners before she entered the ranks of the true pros. Today Knight trains her charges at a facility at Lockinge in Oxfordshire. Her most famous students include Best Mate, winner of the 2002 and 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the 2002 King George Chase, the Ericsson Chase in 2003 and the 2000 Mersey's Novices' Chase; and Racing Demon, winner of the Peterborough Chase in 2007 and 2008.
Sir Henry Cecil was somewhat of a gentlemen amongst horse trainers. Cecil was named Champion Trainer ten times and worked with jockeying greats such as Lester Piggott, Steve Cauthen, Kieren Fallon and Pat Eddery. One of Cecil's specialties as a trainer were young fillies; he trained eight winners in the Epsom Oaks and six winners of the 1,000 Guineas Stakes, the two UK Classic events for fillies aged three. All in all, Cecil trained hundreds of winners in his career; 35 of his winners won Classic Races.
Italian-born Luca Cumani has been training race horses in the United Kingdom since 1976. This trainer comes from the finest racing stock; his mother Elena was a successful amateur jockey, his father a celebrated Italian trainer. Cumani has done everything to do his parents proud: he has trained seven English Classics winners and is the winningmost trainer of the Sun Chariot Stakes with six winning horses. When it comes to fostering new talents, Cumani does not limit himself to equine athletes: Italian-born jockey Frankie Dettori - now one of the greatest riders of all time - began his apprenticeship at Cumani's stables as a teenager and has often attributed his international success to his mentor.
This enterprising and prodigious trainer of racehorses started his company, Mark Johnston Racing Ltd., in 1988 and purchased the property of Kingsley House, where he now maintains one of the best horse training facilities of the United Kingdom. The stable motto is 'Always Trying' and Johnston has tried successfully many times. He has trained winners in the 1,000 Guineas Stakes and the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, won the Ascot Gold Cup three times, and - above all - has trained the outstanding racer Attraction. Attraction won Johnson the 1,000 Guineas, the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Coronation Stakes, the Sun Chariot Stakes and the Maiden Stakes. Johnston's horses are infamous for their hell-for-leather attitude and refusal to cave under pressure.
Originally, Mick Channon's sport of choice was soccer. In the 1970s, this great trainer of race horses enjoyed a promising career as a striker for Southampton and even played in the English National team for five years. However, it was in equine sports that Channon found a permanent home. In 1990, Channon started training horses on his own license and has since established himself as one of the greatest trainers of our time. He has trained winners of the Cheveley Stakes, the Dewhurst Stakes, the Falmouth Stakes, the Nunthorpe Stakes, the St. James's Palace Stakes and the Sun Chariot Stakes. His overseas wins include the Preis Von Europa in Germany, the French Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud, the Prix Morny and the Prix De La Salamandre; and the Premio Lydia Tesio and Premio Roma in Italy.
Steve Asmussen is the younger brother of internationally celebrated jockey Cash Asmussen and is contributing greatly to the family's reputation as racing giants. Although he started his career like a jockey, it didn't take Asmussed too long to discover that training race horses was his true talent. Since starting his professional career as a horse trainer in 1986, Asmussen has produced winners for almost every major North American race. His achievements include winners in the US Classics, the Lexington Stakes, the Kentucky Oaks, the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby; two winners in the Preakness Stakes and one winner in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Asmussen received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 2008 and 2009 and was the US Champion Trainer by wins in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009.
This Texan horse trainer is one of the most celebrated horse racing professionals in the United States. Pletcher has raked in the honours of the Eclipse Award (for most outstanding trainer of the season) four consecutive years and was the highest earning trainer of race horses from 2004 to 2006. In 2010, Pletcher finally cracked the Kentucky Derby after entering 24 runners into the event over the years when his star-pupil Super Saver was first home in the infamous Run for the Roses. Some of Pletcher's most significant trainees include English Channel, Super Saver, Rags To Riches, Honey Ryder and Any Given Saturday.