How The UK Trainers’ Championship Could Be Settled At The Grand National
One of the fascinating subplots going into the 2020 Randox Health Grand National is the battle for the UK Trainers’ Championship this season.
Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton lead the way in the standings for the campaign, which runs through to April 25.
Unlike the Jockeys’ Championship, where the table is calculated by winners, the trainers’ standings are done off prize money through the National Hunt season.
Henderson leads the way and has strong Cheltenham and Aintree hopes
Henderson has won the Trainers’ Championship five times throughout his career. His first success came all the way back in 1986 and since then the Seven Barrows-based trainer has consistently been at the top of the sport.
The current leader in the standings is odds-on with the bookmakers to win his third title in the last four years.
Henderson has accumulated £1,868,714 in the 2019/20 campaign although his lead is less than £50,000, with rival Nicholls chasing him down.
The Cheltenham Festival next month could be a meeting where Henderson is able to extend his lead because he has some leading hopes in the Championship races.
Epatante is the 3/1* favourite to give him a record-extending eighth Champion Hurdle success, while Santini is the 7/2* joint-favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Henderson will also have one eye on the Grand National in April. The 4m2½f race is one of the few major National Hunt events that the Seven Barrows trainer has yet to win.
Ok Corral and Beware The Bear both have strong chances this year, according to the betting, priced at 25/1* and 33/1* respectively. The winner of the Grand National scoops £500,000, so it may make a huge difference to this year’s standings.
Neptune Collonges helped Nicholls secure 2012 title
With 11 titles to his name, Nicholls has dominated the Trainers’ Championship over the last couple of decades.
The Ditcheat trainer’s win in 2012 came after Neptune Collonges helped him leapfrog Henderson in the table following his Grand National victory.
Neptune Collonges prevailed in the closest finish to the race after he scored in a photo finish ahead of Sunnyhillboy. The talented grey chaser gave Nicholls his first win in the Aintree race as his 53rd runner in the steeplechase.
Although he trails Henderson this year, Nicholls will feel there are enough valuable races left in the calendar to overtake his rival.
Nicholls’ best hope at Cheltenham appears to be Solo in the Triumph Hurdle. The novice hurdler is the 3/1* favourite to win the opening race on the Friday of the meeting.
In the Grand National field, Give Me A Copper and Yala Enki both look to have solid chances. The former won the Badger Beers Silver Trophy Handicap Chase at Wincanton earlier this season over 3m1f.
Yala Enki has long been seen as a strong Grand National contender for Nicholls. He won the trial for the race at Haydock in 2017 by an emphatic 54 lengths. The 10-year-old was also a close third in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow back in December.
If Henderson and Nicholls are within £500,000 of each other going into the Grand National, the Aintree contest will carry even more significance than usual and should settle the duel.
*Odds subject to change.