The Jumps Trainer Championship in the UK is an annual competition that celebrates the skills and successes of jump racing trainers.

It is the pinnacle of any trainer’s career and a key part of the British horse racing calendar, focusing on National Hunt races, which include both hurdles and steeplechases.

It is the culmination of a year’s worth of blood, sweat, and tears and spans the entire jump season, from late spring through the winter, ending at Sandown Park racecourse in April.

And this year, there are potentially four trainers who could win it. It might be a nerve-racking time for them, but for those of us who love a flutter on the specials offered by popular betting sites, it’s very exciting.

So will Aintree be the deciding factor in whether Dan Skelton, Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, or Willie Mullins takes the crown?

Criteria For Winning

Before we get to the nitty gritty of the facts and figures, it should be noted that the winner is determined not by the total tally of wins but is based on prize money.

Throughout the season, the various trainers earn money for their wins and places in races across the UK. The trainer whose horses have accumulated the most prize money by the end of the season is declared the champion.

So why is it this way? Because if it only went off wins, fewer trainers would legitimately have a chance. This way, the format encourages trainers to saddle runners in as many races as possible and to aim for the top positions.

Essentially, it boils down to a heady combination of quality and quantity.

Trainer Championship 2024

So with only a few weeks left until the 2024 winner is decided, it’s time to look at the stats.

Unsurprisingly, over the last number of years, since 2005, in fact, only two trainers have won the championship – Paul Nicholls has bagged the title 14 times, with Henderson taking the other four. Though he has won it six times in total.

This year, however, the race is a lot more open.

Nicky Henderson

Following a truly disappointing Cheltenham Festival for Nicky Henderson, he is fourth in the race.

He would also need to win over £800,000 by the end of the month to have a chance.

At the time of writing, his stats look like this:

  • Winners to Runners – 79-385
  • Win Rate – 21%
  • Places – 108
  • Total Earnings – £1,763,023

So, ruling him out of contention, the next trainer in the Championship, and currently in third place, is Willie Mullins.

Willie Mullins

So just how does an Irish trainer find himself battling it out for the British Trainer Championship? By cleaning up at Cheltenham.

With nine winners at this year’s Festival, plus a string of places, Mullins is close to hitting the £2 million mark in the UK.

Baring in mind that this figure does not include his earnings in Ireland, it is quite a staggering number.

So much so that he has actually only had 14 winners with an additional 19 second and third places in the UK this year.

Despite this, his tally is impressive:

  • Winners to Runners – 14 – 97
  • Win Rate – 14%
  • Places – 19
  • Total Earnings – £1,914,789

It would take a mammoth challenge at Aintree, including a win, for Mullins to contend this year. However, don’t rule him out just yet!

He also has ten entries into the Scottish National worth £112K to the winner and a whopping 13 entries in the Gold Cup at Sandown on April 27th.

Throw in a few places, additional winners at the Aintree Festival, and he could do it.

Paul Nicholls

If there’s one man who knows how to win the Trainers Championship, it is Paul Nicholls. With 14 of them under his belt, he has been almost unstoppable since 2005.

To date this season, he has saddled 478 runners, winning with 115 of them. His win rate of 24% is one of the highest this year.

With an enviable balance of both the quality and quantity needed to be the overall winner, he has also racked up 140 second and third-place finishes. That means nearly half of all of his runners have finished in the top three.

Less than £30K separates him from the top spot. And with no Grand National runners, he is free to concentrate on the race of the festival at Aintree, as well as the Gold Cup at Sandown for which Threeunderthrufive is his big chance.

So if Paul Nicholls is hovering in second place, that leaves only one trainer at the top. Dan Skelton.

Dan Skelton

To state that this has been a huge year for Dan Skelton isn’t an understatement. In one season he has jumped from third to first, closing the gap on his rivals.

He is also on for his highest-ever earnings, and with plenty of options for Aintree, Ayr, and Sandown, he could very well win his first-ever championship in 2024.

So how has he done it? Quantity. And I say that with the greatest of respect. But the numbers don’t lie and against Nicholl’s win rate of 24%, Skelton’s is only 15%.

Where he has succeeded is by saddling 694 runners, with 107 winners and more than 210 placing in either second or third place.

He has raced more horses than any other trainer in the UK this season and if he can keep the pace up for another three weeks, he could be the first to break the Nicholls-Henderson cycle.

Skelton vs Nicholls

The great irony of Skelton finally pipping Nicholls to the post (potentially) is that Dan Skelton used to work for Paul Nicholls.

He spent nine years working at the yard as an assistant trainer before setting up his own stables in 2013.

In the ten years since he has quickly risen to become one of the leading jump racing trainers in the UK and has made a significant impact in a relatively short amount of time.

It also helps that his father, Nick Skelton, is a celebrated Olympic show jumping gold medalist, which underscores the equestrian talent running in the family.

He will send out Galia Des Liteaux on April 13th with his brother Harry on board. A win would not only be an incredible family achievement but could also solidify Skelton as the best trainer in the country.