Nicholas John Henderson, always known as Nicky, has the distinction of saddling the most winners ever at the Cheltenham Festival, with 58 victories to his credit. He has also won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship four times, including the 2016/17 season.
Henderson, 67, rode 75 winners as an amateur before joining Fred Winter as assistant trainer between 1974 and 1978. He set up as a trainer in his own right at Windsor House Stables, Lambourn in 1978, but didn’t send out his first Cheltenham Festival winner until 1985, when See You Then, ridden by Steve-Eccles, won the Champion Hurdle. Notoriously fragile and raced so infrequently that he was nicknamed “See You When”, See You Then went on to win the Champion Hurdle again in 1986 and 1987, making him the fourth horse in history to win the race in three consecutive years. Henderson described him as “the hurdler who put me on the Cheltenham map and was one of a kind”.
Henderson was, indeed, on the map, winning the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship for the first time in 1985/86 and again in 1986/87. In 1992, he moved to his current yard, at Seven Barrows, near Lambourn. Henderson was principal trainer of the late Queen Mother and also trained horses for the Queen, one of whom, Moonlit Path, was the cause of controversy back in 2009. Henderson was suspended for three months and fined a record £40,000 for administering the prohibited anti-bleeding drug tranexamic acid to the mare before a race at Huntingdon.
However, the suspension did little to tarnish his reputation and, in the interim, Henderson has been responsible for numerous high-profile horses including Bobs Worth, Long Run, Sprinter Sacre and, more recently, Altior, Buveur D’Air and Might Bite, to name but a few. Indeed, he was recognised in the New Year Honours in 2018, becoming a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO), which he described as a “very nice surprise”.
Hensderson has been trying to win the Grand National, without success, since his first runner in the race, Zongalero, finished second to Rubstic in 1979. Nevertheless, he’s won just about everything else and currently leads the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship – which he’s long odds-on to win again – by 16 winners and just over £116,000 in prize money, so his future success seems assured.