A closer look at some of the trainers who will be sending horses to Stratford this summer

With the new season at Stratford starting on the 21st April after the last fixture fell foul of waterlogging, Stratford’s summer programme of racing provides the perfect opportunity for some of the very best jumps trainers in the business to keep their stables ticking over.

This summer’s jumping fixtures look set to be of the highest quality and several stars will be on show. Let’s look at who could be making an appearance at the track over the course of the next few months.

Dan Skelton

Dan Skelton has emerged into one of the UK’s most prominent trainers. The leading British trainer at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival, Skelton is no stranger to success at Stratford. His position leading the Trainers’ Championship has temporarily been usurped by Grand National – winning Willie Mullins, but he may yet find his way back to the top of the leaderboard in the final two weeks of this season. Three seasons ago, a string of April winners at Stratford helped brother Harry to become champion jockey.

Whilst most of his top Cheltenham and Aintree stars will be put away to prepare for a new winter campaign, some of his younger and newest recruits should be on show throughout the summer. 

Skelton has made no secret of his desire to be crowned as the UK’s leading trainer and he has been quick to recognise the role that meetings like Stratford can play in achieving that aim. Even if summer horses have taken a lesser role in his success in recent years, Stratford is his local course, and a track he’s keen to support.

Look for Skelton to play a leading role across many races this summer.

Nicky Henderson

It has been a mixed first quarter of 2024 for Nicky Henderson. With his stable hit by illness over the Cheltenham Festival, one of the UK’s most prolific ever trainers was unable to add to his impressive haul of 73 Festival winners. 

Only Willie Mullins has trained more winning horses at Cheltenham than Henderson and make no mistake about it, Henderson will be intent on closing that gap over the next few years.

Similarly to Dan Skelton, Henderson holds racing at Stratford in the highest regard and several promising horses should be declared to race over the next few months. The Seven Barrows winner machine always includes some top-of-the-ground horses.

Paul Nicholls

For those who have a passion for jumps racing, Stratford provides the perfect opportunity for those to watch some top class action. With every race being able to be bet on the best sportsbooks, for years Paul Nicholls has been a punter’s best friend and he has reigned supreme at the top of the UK training rankings. Punters love that among all the trainers, Nicholls tells it straight every time.

With an all-conquering stable of horses, Nicholls doesn’t attend Stratford as often as the duo of Skelton and Henderson but when he does send a horse to the track, you can be assured that horse racing betting sites up and down the UK will be taking it very seriously. 

To consistently win the UK Trainers’ Championship is certainly no easy feat and winning races at Stratford can prove valuable in the long run. To get the new season off to a bang, expect Nicholls to maintain his excellent record in the Spring before the ground dries up, and from September when his winter horses are ready for their first run.

Gary Hanmer

Whilst Gary Hanmer might not be as well known as some of the other trainers on this list, he is a name to keep an eye on over this Stratford season.

The leading trainer at Stratford for steeplechases, Hanmer currently holds a 31% strike rate in chases held at the track and he will be looking to keep that impressive strike rate intact this summer. The likes of multiple winner Steel Wave kept his tally moving forward last year.

Fergal O’Brien

A distinct pattern of the first few months of the season in recent years has been a plethora of runners from Ravenswell, home to Fergal O’Brien. Like many before him, he has used the summer programme both to build a lead in the Trainers’ Championship, and to enhance his reputation whilst some of the big boys have focused on their winter horses.

Over the last three years no trainer has enjoyed as much hurdles success as Fergal O’Brien at Stratford.Over that timeframe, O’Brien can boast an impressive 26% strike rate in hurdles races over the course. Keen to keep that strike rate high, look for O’Brien to continue his strategy of going into November still in the lead in the Championship.

David Christie

Runners from Ireland are generally pretty rare at Stratford, but there’s one meeting where horses trained by Ulsterman David Christie should always command respect. The Hunters’ evening on May 31 draws the Point-to-Point community from both sides of the Irish Sea together. Christie has saddled at least one winner in each of the past 2 years, and he’s sure to have candidates this time around too.

There are several other trainers to keep an eye on this Stratford season.

Jonjo O’Neill is racing royalty, one of the few men in racing who has won the Gold Cup multiple times as a jockey, he has trained well over 900 winners as a trainer and is one of the most respected trainers in the business. He is a go-to trainer for big handicap winners.

O’Neill boasts an impressive strike rate over both hurdles and chases at the course and will be hopeful of even more success this summer after a fruitless Cheltenham and Aintree.

Ben Pauling has enjoyed a wonderful winter season and notched another Cheltenham Festival winner at this year’s festival.

Regarded as one of the sharpest trainers in the industry, Pauling’s stock is on the rise and Stratford provides the perfect platform for him to show off many different horses from his impressive stable. He is a name to watch out for, and another that makes hay whilst the more established among his rivals wait on easier ground conditions.

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