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Melbourne Cup Trainers 2023: Who to Watch?

Trainers are often left in the background of their star horses, but they are an essential part of every race. Behind every successful Melbourne cup horse are years of training with an equally successful winning trainer. For any horse to be successful and reach its full potential, there needs to be guidance. That is why we will take a look at some of the notable Melbourne Cup winning trainers in 2023.

OperatorTrainerHorseVisit now
Gai Waterhouse & Adrian BottKnights Order
ladbrokes logoSimon & Ed CrisfordWithout A Fight
ladbrokes logoDavid PayneMontelfelia
Anthony & Sam FreedmanRealm Of Flowers
ladbrokes logoJames FergusonDeauville Legend

You should have in mind that the horse list can change before the race.

Who are the top Melbourne Cup winning trainers?

Charlie Appleby

If there is one trainer to watch this year, it’s Charlie Appleby. Appleby won the 2018 Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter. Cross Counter could be back at the race again this year after he missed the 2020 edition. But even if Cross Counter doesn’t succeed, Appleby still has another three of his Melbourne Cup horses among the favourites this year: Ispolini, Ghaiyyath and Ghostwatch.

In his prolific career, Charlie Appleby has recorded over 600 wins, which makes him one of the most successful Melbourne Cup trainers. In 2018 he won his third International Trainer of the Year award. Some of his major wins include the Epson Derby with Masar (2018), Middle Park Stakes with Charming Thought (2014), Nassau Stakes with Wild Illusion (2018), Prix de l’Opéra with Wild Illusion (2018), Sydney Cup with Polarisation (2017), and Natalma Stakes with La Pelosa (2018) to name a few.

Joseph O’Brien

A rising star of the horse race training world, Ireland’s Joseph O’Brien is well on his way to becoming one of the most successful trainers. Having retired from his successful jockey career in 2016 to focus on training, at 26, he has already had some major wins. The crown jewel being his historic 2017 Melbourne Cup win with Rekindling. This win made him the youngest among Melbourne Cup trainers to have ever won at Flemington Park. He also trains last year’s Melbourne Cup winner, Twilight Payment. Could this year see a back to back win for this horse and trainer racing duo?

Some of his other major wins as a trainer include the Irish Derby with Latrobe (2018), Moyglare Stud Stakes with Intricately (2016), Irish Gold Cup with Edwulf (2018), Racing Post Novice Chase with Le Richebourg (2018) and Fillies’ Mile with Iridessa (2018). It is safe to say that there is a bright future ahead of him, and we are excited to be along for the ride. It remains to be seen if he will manage to train one or more winning Melbourne Cup horses.

Robert Hickmott

A former Melbourne AFL player, Robert Hickmott has had a very successful racehorse training career. So far, he has had two impressive Melbourne Cup victories, which already makes him one of the more successful Melbourne Cup trainers. The first win was in 2012 with Green Moon, who then moved on to also win the Turnbull Stakes. The second horse trained by Hickmott, Almandin, won the Melbourne Cup in 2016. Earlier in his racehorse training career, Hickmott was heavily involved in training Efficient, who ended up winning the 2007 Melbourne Cup. However, officially, the Efficient was trained by Graeme Rogerson.

In 2019, Hickmott-trained Schabau was one of the top Melbourne Cup Horses predicted to win the race. Unfortunately, due to a disappointing tendon injury, Schabau missed the spring season and returned in winter 2020. However, Hickmott has already proved he can successfully deal with injuries, after successfully overcoming Almandin’s injury that has kept him off the racecourse for two years, before winning the 2016 Melbourne Cup.

Lee Freedman

A true legend among Melbourne Cup trainers and a Hall of Fame inductee, David Lee Freedman has won the cup a staggering five times. He is the trainer responsible for two of the three wins in Makybe Diva’s incredible streak. Freedman’s 1989 Melbourne Cup win with Tawrrific marked a significant point in his career, making the 90s his most prolific decade.

During the 90s, Freedman trained several very successful horses, including the 1992 Melbourne Cup winner Subzero, as well as Doriemus, who won both the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup in 1995.

In 2004, Freedman took over training Makybe Diva from David Hall and turned him into his greatest training achievement. Under Freedman, the former Melbourne Cup winner, Makybe Diva managed another two times, for a total of three consecutive Melbourne Cup wins. The wins were unprecedented in the tournament’s 150 long histories and made “The Diva” one of the most successful Melbourne Cup horses. They also made Freedman one of the most successful Melbourne Cup trainers. Following a gradual decline in success, Lee Freedman ultimately retired from training in 2011. However, in November 2014, he announced his return to training and continues to successfully train horses to date.

Confirmed Melbourne Cup Trainers 2023

Ciaron Maher & David EustaceGOLD TRIP14
Edward CummingsDUAIS10
Gai Waterhouse & Adrian BottKNIGHTS ORDER24
Annabel NeashamNUMERIAN7
Simon & Ed CrisfordWITHOUT A FIGHT18
Ben & JD HayesCAMORRA17
Joseph PrideSTOCKMAN2
Gai Waterhouse & Adrian BottHOO YA MAL15
Robert HickmottSERPENTINE23
Ciaron Maher & David EustaceGRAND PROMENADE1
Bjorn BakerARAPAHO19
Michael MoroneyEMISSARY3
Grahame BeggLUNAR FLARE12
Ciaron Maher & David EustaceSMOKIN’ ROMANS16
Symon WildeTRALEE ROSE22
Ciaron Maher & David EustaceHIGH EMOCEAN8
Ciaron Maher & David EustaceINTERPRETATION6
Anthony & Sam FreedmanREALM OF FLOWERS5

Winning Trainers of the Last 20 Years

In the table below you will find the trainers who have been behind the winning horses of the last 20 years.

2020Joseph O’BrienTwilight Payment55.5kg8
2019Danny O’BrienVow And Declare52kg4
2018Charlie ApplebyCross Counter51kg4
2017Joseph O’BrienRekindling52kg4
2016Rob HickmottAlmandin52kg7
2015Darren WeirPrince of Penzance53kg6
2014Andreas WohlerProtectionist56.5kg5
2013Gai WaterhouseFiorente55kg6
2012Rob HickmottGreen Moon53.5kg6
2011Mikel DelzanglesDunaden54.5kg6
2010Alain De Royer-DupreAmericain54.5kg6
2009Mark KavanaghShocking51kg4
2008Bart CummingsViewed53kg5
2007Graeme RogersonEfficient54.5kg4
2006Katsuhiko SumiiDelta Blues56kg6
2005Lee FreedmanMakybe Diva58kg7
2004Lee FreedmanMakybe Diva55.5kg6
2003David HallMakybe Diva51kg5
2002Dermot WeldMedia Puzzle52.5kg6
2001Sheila LaxonEthereal52kg4

The Most Successful Melbourne Cup Trainers

While there are many trainers who have seen many Melbourne Cup successes, it is Bart Cummings who has won the most Melbourne Cups in his career with 12 wins. This incredibly well-respected trainer trained the horses who won the 1965, 1966, 1967, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1990, 1991, 1996, 1999 and 2008 editions of the Melbourne Cup.

The trainers who come in joint-second for the most wins are Etienne de Mestre and Lee Freedman, with five winners each. De Mestre led Archer, ridden by jockey John Cutts, to success in the inaugural Melbourne Cup in 1861, and then went on to have success with horses he trained in 1862, 1867, 1877 and 1878. Horses trained by Freedman won this high-stakes horse racing event in 1989, 1992, 1995, 2004 and 2005.

This section honours the all-time Melbourne Cup trainers, whose strategic brilliance, untiring dedication and keen understanding of equine abilities have driven many to victory. From storied veterans to promising newcomers, these all-time Melbourne Cup trainers have etched their skills and knowledge into the very heart of Australia’s premier horse racing event. Embark on an insightful journey into their captivating stories and unrivalled achievements here.

Female Melbourne Cup Trainers

Although the world of horse racing tends to be a bit of a boys club, some female trainers have had incredible success in the industry. However, at present, the only female trainer whose horse has won the Melbourne Cup is New Zealand / Australian trainer Sheila Laxon. She trained Ethereal who won the race with a time of 3:21.08.


Melbourne Cup horse trainers are entitled to 10% of the winnings. This meant that last year when the total prize money for first place was $4,400,000, the trainer received $440,000.

Despite his horses often doing very well in the race, Chris Waller is yet to have any of them go on to win any Melbourne Cup races.

Avilius, trained by James Cummings and ridden by John Allen, didn’t do very well on the day and came last in the 2020 edition of the Melbourne Cup.

The confirmed list of horses racing in this year’s Melbourne Cup is currently still unknown. We will find out about each competing horse, jockey and trainer closer to race day in November. Additionally, we will find out the final field – including which barrier each horse will be racing from – when it is drawn in October.

Learn more about the Melbourne Cup race

For more information you can also look at the following pages:

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