Changing of the guard

I’ll admit it, I do have a bit of a nerdy side to me and I do love pouring over some of stats you get in sport.

In racing I’ve always been fascinated by the top trainers and top jockeys tables you get in the Racing Post. Glancing at the current British top trainers list made me realise that things are changing, maybe not quickly but definitely changing. In fact, I’d argue we are now starting to see that point when one generation is getting ready to take over from the last.

Not that you’d necessarily notice it. Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls fill the top two spaces as normal. At the time of writing, Hendo is £116,000 clear in front, with total prize money of £1.6m. Nicholls is then almost £230 grand clear of Nigel Twiston-Davies. The Twister has also been at the top for years so no surprise there. But look at the rest of the top 10.

Fourth is Dan Skelton, a relatively new kid on the block. Here we are at the end of January and Skelton is only other trainer who has passed the million pound mark – and tellingly is the only British trainer with over 100 winners (though Nicky Henderson is only three away). But Skelton hasn’t just passed three figures, he currently has 130 and has run well over 100 more runners than any other trainer. He is a man in a hurry to get to the top, he’s started getting good horses and more will follow.

Fifth is Colin Tizzard. Much has been written about Tizzard over the past year. At one point he looked like sweeping all before him but it hasn’t worked out that way. With Cue Card shortly to be retired, questions over whether Thistlecrack will ever come back, Native River still to run this year and the sad loss of Mr and Mrs Potts it will be interesting to see how he fares in the future and can stay upwardly mobile.

The rest of the top 10 are Tom George, Harry Fry, Alan King, Donald McCain and Evan Williams. And I note that Tom George – in 6th place (a mere £1,000 ahead of of Fry and £3,500 ahead of King) is £1 million behind Henderson.

So what you might say? Well it strikes me that some familiar names are missing here.

Jonjo O’Neill trains one of the powerhouse stables but he is only in 11th. Phillip Hobbs, for many years a top 5 trainer is 13th. And where oh where is David Pipe? Amazingly, in what must be a desperate year for the Pipe team, he is only in 23rd spot and another stalwart top 10 trainer, Venetia Williams, is struggling way back in 33rd.

I’d pick out a few other ‘young’ and upwardly mobile trainers in the top 30. Fergal O’Brien (12th), Neil Mulholland (14th), Olly Murphy (22nd), Ben Pauling (26th) and Anthony Honeyball (in 30th) all strike me as trainers going places, and I’d expect to see each of them progress in the coming months.

The major festivals start in a few weeks, and let’s face it we’d still expect the likes of Henderson, Mullins and Elliott to win most of the big prizes. But I think what we’re seeing is the start of the changing of the guard. A new generation of top trainers beginning to form, ready to dominate as the old(er) guard maybe start winding down and eventually hand over. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on.

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