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Horse Racing

Trainers’ Championship Race



With this year’s Cheltenham Festival and Grand National now in the past, fewer and fewer National Hunt races occupy the forefront of racing fans’ minds as they turn their attention to the Flat season.

There is, however, one exception this term; the ‘race’ for the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship has been a popular topic of debate and spectacle since March when Dan Skelton shot up the table after a stunningly successful Cheltenham Festival. Ever since, he and Paul Nicholls have been jostling for the top spot.

That was until Irish trainer Willie Mullins won the Grand National with I Am Maximus and took over first place on the back of the prize money earned that day.

Despite not being a UK-based trainer, superpower Mullins – currently over £100,000 clear of second-place Dan Skelton – is throwing everything he has at the UK Championship, determined to win the title. More and more of his horses are being brought over to Britain at this latter stage of the 2023/24 jumps season in the hope of winning races and preventing Skelton or Nicholls from catching up.

Read on for discussion of how the next few meetings could affect the standings.

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Willie Mullins

Leading the UK National Hunt Trainers’ Championship by over £100,000 at the time of writing, Willie Mullins has more UK entries over the next couple of weeks than ones in Ireland and is taking no prisoners in pursuit of the title. The next most lucrative race meeting in the UK calendar is the Jumps Season closer at Sandown on the 27th of April, where Mullins’ best chance of winning looks to be El Fabiolo in the Grade 1 Celebration Chase, in which he also has Gaelic Warrior entered, alongside numerous longer-priced stablemates. If Mullins trains the winner of this race, which could be any one of his five entries for the contest, he would clear away by another £100,000 and be near impossible to beat.

Dan Skelton

Currently sitting second in the trainers championship, Dan Skelton has amassed nearly £3 million in prize money this term. With Paul Nicholls in hot pursuit and Willie Mullins leading the charge, Skelton will have to pick his races carefully in order to get back to the top. With the ground finally beginning to improve after a long, wet winter, he luckily still has plenty of horses with which to go to war and has 17 entries over Sandown.

Le Milos, who holds an entry for the 3.35pm on Saturday, 27th April, is one who will appreciate the better ground and could easily get back to winning ways, fetching £95,000 for his trainer. Skelton also has four good horses entered in the Select Hurdle; last-start winner Kateira, Cheltenham Festival winner Langer Dan, talented My Drogo, and quality staying mare West Balboa. That’s some team for one race, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Dan Skelton made his presence duly felt by Mullins at Sandown.

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Paul Nicholls

Another UK trainer taking the race to the top very seriously is Paul Nicholls, whose team for Sandown appears popular in the markets. Third in the championship currently, Nicholls needs around £75,000 to level up to Dan Skelton. A likely contender to close the gap is Threeunderthrufive, who was last seen winning the Grade 3 Swinley Handicap Chase at Ascot in February and is entered in the 3.35pm race on the 27th April. The good ground should see him at his best and, with the likes of Hitman joining him at Sandown, Paul Nicholls could claw back his usual position at the top of the championship just in time if everything goes to plan this month.

He’s in bristling form as usual, and while Willie Mullins can seem untouchable at times, Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls are both determined to make this a mighty battle to the end.

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