Who Are the Best Trainers in Irish Racing?

We have overlooked Irish horse racing on this site, and this is an issue we intend to rectify! It is a very different scene to what happens in the UK as there is no specific Class or Group race system. Instead, you can tell the quality of an Irish race by checking out the prize fund.


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The last I checked, you could try and link the Irish prize money system to the UK system with the following prize money corresponding to a UK class:

  • Less than €5,000: Class 6
  • €5,000 – €6,999: Class 5
  • €7,000 – €9,999: Class 4
  • €10,000 – €12,999: Class 3
  • €13,000+: Class 2

Ireland also has Point-to-Point races alongside Chase and Hurdles events on its National Hunt scene. PTP races are effectively nurseries for young National Hunt horses and involve running across farmland in the Autumn and Spring. It is a VERY different type of race to what UK racing lovers are used to, and can be quite beautiful to watch.

As for trainers, there are around 700 licensed ones in Ireland, and most have a license to train horses on Flat and NH though they typically specialise in one. In this guide, I take a look at Ireland’s best-known trainers to see if they are profitable.

Flat Trainers

You simply can’t discuss Ireland flat racing without talking about Aiden O’Brien. He began his career in 1993 and has been the #1 trainer in Ireland in terms of prize money every single year since 1999! He has also won the UK equivalent on six occasions. At the time of writing, he is already over €0.5 million ahead of his nearest rival.

However, is O’Brien good news for punters? All data in this article comes from the beginning of 2015 unless otherwise stated.

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)A/E
2,22647521.34%-1.31%0.91

It isn’t surprising that his A/E figure (actual wins vs. expected wins) is 0.09 below average because O’Brien’s horses are usually overbacked and under-priced. It is actually a surprise that the loss is so low. O’Brien performs very well in handicap races, with a profit of almost 15% from approximately 270 bets.

What you’ll notice from O’Brien is that he often has more than one horse in a race. While the ROI is no better, it is usually best to choose his shortest priced entry in such events as O’Brien favourites win over 44% of their races in Ireland.

Aiden provides his son, Donnacha, with plenty of rides, but they are not a dream team for punters. The combination wins 25% of their races but at a loss of over 11%! It is better to focus on O’Brien horses when Seamie Heffernan is the jockey. While a combo of O’Brien and Heffernan only win 20% of their races, the ROI is over 17% although it has been a poor 2019 to date.

I looked through Irish Flat trainers and picked out three that offer profitability:

Joseph Patrick O’Brien

As you can guess from the name, O’Brien is the oldest son of Aiden and is a successful trainer in his own right. Although his strike rate is just 12% since becoming a trainer in 2016, he is involved in some big priced winners. Following all of his entries would yield a profit of over 28%, with a profit in three of the last four years.

It is especially profitable to back his horses in non-handicap races. While he wins just 11% of them, the profit rises to 61% on Betfair!

Ger Lyons

Lyons is another Irish trainer that wins his fair share of prize money and usually averages close to €1.5 million a year. His overall strike rate in non-handicap races since 2015 is just over 18% and backing all of his horses would lead to a profit of over 12% on Betfair. He has been profitable for the punter in four of the last five seasons.

Dermot Weld

Weld is usually in the top five prize money winners and performs better in handicap races. His strike rate is very low at just under 9%, but punters would get a profit of 21% from following his horses with a profit in three of the last five years. The lengthy losing streaks are a concern, however. On three occasions, Weld has gone 30+ races without a win.

National Hunt Trainers

Willie Mullins is the kingpin in Irish National hunt races. His partnership with Ruby Walsh has been fruitful for both parties although Mullins must do without his reliable sidekick because Walsh announced his retirement recently. Mullins trained his 3,000th winner in 2018 and is still going strong with over 30 years as a trainer under his belt.

Last year, Mullins won over €6 million in Irish prize money, but how does he fare from a punter’s viewpoint?

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)A/E
3,08787928.47%6.5%0.94

Despite winning fewer races than expected, Mullins actually provides punters with a profit! It is worth focusing on all of his entries in non-handicap races. The win rate increases to almost 33% and you get a profit of 10% for your troubles. For the record, almost 17% of his non-favourites win, and you would earn a profit of over 18%.

Let’s look at a few other top Irish National Hunt trainers.

Gordon Elliot

Elliot is the silver to Mullins’ gold. He regularly finishes behind his rival in the prize money stakes. However, he only wins 15.69% of his races, and you would end up with a loss of almost 6% on Betfair. The loss increases to 27% in SP terms.

However, there is a profit to be had if you focus solely on his Chase entries. He wins only 15% of these races, but you would earn a profit of over 11% since 2015, including a 9% profit so far in 2019.

Henry De Bromhead

De Bromhead is another well known trainer in Irish racing and while he only wins 15% of his races, backing his horses would result in a profit of over 27%. His strike rate increases to 16.47% in non-handicap races with a profit of 32%. For a monster profit, stick with non-handicap hurdle events. De Bromhead wins 15.2% of them, but the profit is almost 80%!

Mrs. John Harrington

You may wonder why there is a Mrs in front of the name John. This is the name by which Jessica Harrington goes by when training her horses. Her husband, John, sadly passed away in 2014 but Jessica continues to perform admirably on the Irish horse racing circuit.

She has won just over 12% of her races since 2015 but backing them all would lead to a profit of over 6%. Harrington performs poorly in Chase races but in Hurdle events, backing her entries would lead to a profit of 24% since 2015, even though the strike rate is just 12.2%.

Final Thoughts

I hope this brief guide to the top Irish trainers proves to be useful. Although it is the same sport, you may be a little confounded by Irish racing at first if all you are used to is UK events.

However, once you get your head around it, you’ll find that picking winners is no more difficult than it is in British races. With the dominance of trainers like Willie Mullins, it is occasionally even easier.

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