Given the popularity and rich heritage of horse racing in Ireland, it should come as no surprise that there were approximately 547 registered horse trainers operating nationwide in 2019.
Currently, this number just happens to include some of the very best trainers of all-time, who boast huge stables of talented runners and have churned out successful horses over a period of decades.
Of course, you can learn more about horse racing in Ireland on the www.betinireland.ie/sports-betting/horse-racing/ page. In this post, however, we’ll look at Ireland’s best trainers and those who have blazed a trail for others to follow in the sport!
1. Dermot Weld
We’ll start with the iconic Dermot Weld, who is one of the Emerald Isle’s greatest ever trainers and one who has inspired an entire generation of people to follow in his wake.
Weld’s record of success is truly breathtaking, having tasted success in all five Irish classic and saddled big race winners on four different continents. Unsurprisingly, he also holds the record for the most winners trained in Ireland, and also has the distinction of being a qualified veterinarian.
In terms of individual classics, he has won the Irish 1,000 Guineas on four separate occasions, with a staggering 28-year gap between his first triumph (Princes Polly, 1982) and his most recent success (Bethrah, 2010).
His record also shows four consecutive Irish St Legers between 2001 and 2004 with Vinnie Roe, with this achievement unmatched in this particular race. His most recent classic win came at the Irish Derby in 2016, while this year also saw him win the Epsom Derby to claim a unique and coveted double!
Over time, Weld has worked with some of the best riders in the sport, with his principle jockeys including Pat Shanahan and Pat Smullen in their number. He has also achieved considerable international success, including victories in the Hong Kong Mile and Melbourne Cup.
2. Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins is another experienced and highly successful trainer, and one that has won almost every major prize both in Ireland and the UK.
What’s more, he has earned the distinction of being Champion National Hunt trainer on eight separate occasions, making one of the most decorated trainers in the sport both in Ireland and across the globe.
Mullins is perhaps most synonymous with the extraordinary Hurricane Fly, who won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham twice in the space of just three years. This thoroughbred won 24 of his 32 outings over the hurdles, while he helped to bank winnings of £1.634 million during a stellar career.
Back in 2012/13, Mullins also set a record for the number of winners trained in a National Hunt season, with 155 in total and a record high of 13 at the Punchestown Festival.
A further record followed for the trainer just two years later in 2015, when he racked up an unprecedented eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival and cemented his reputation as one of Ireland’s greatest ever trainers.
A truly astonishing and consistent performer, Mullins continues to churn out winners and compete at the very highest level.
3. Aidan O’Brien
No list of this type would be complete with Aidan O’Brien, with this trainer (who’s backed by John Magnier and the successful Coolmore operation) having developed some of the best and most successful runners in modern history.
He was the trainer of the great Istabraq, for example, who won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham for three years in succession (1998-2001). He also trained the brilliant Rock of Gibraltar to seven consecutive Grade 1 victories in 2001 and 2002, with this achievement unmatched in the modern age.
Another of O’Brien’s horses, High Chaparral, won both the English and Irish Derbies in 2002, joining an elite selection of runners in the process!
In terms of classic performance, O’Brien boasts a staggering 14 Irish Derby wins to his name, including three successes in the last five years and successive triumphs in 2019 (Sovereign) and 2020 (Santiago).
O’Brien experienced some lean years during the early and mid-noughties, before roaring back in 2007 and 2008. In fact, 2008 saw the trainer win a staggering 23 Grade 1 races, including Henrythenavigator who took first place in both the Irish and English 2,000 Guineas.
As if to cement his legacy, O’Brien trained the winner of the Irish Derby for seven consecutive years between 2006 and 2012, with this record unlikely to ever be broken!