Melbourne Cup Trainers: Who to Watch?

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Trainers are often left in the background of their star horses, but they are an essential part of every race (more information about the Melbourne Cup race). Behind every successful Melbourne cup horse are years of training with an equally successful 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 trainers in 2023.

Operator Trainer Horse Visit now
Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Knights Order
ladbrokes logo Simon & Ed Crisford Without A Fight  
ladbrokes logo David Payne Montelfelia  
Anthony & Sam Freedman Realm Of Flowers
ladbrokes logo James Ferguson Deauville Legend

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

Who are the top Melbourne Cup 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

Trainer Horse Barrier
Ciaron Maher & David Eustace GOLD TRIP 14
Edward Cummings DUAIS 10
Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott KNIGHTS ORDER 24
David Payne MONTEFELIA 11
Annabel Neasham NUMERIAN 7
Simon & Ed Crisford WITHOUT A FIGHT 18
Ben & JD Hayes CAMORRA 17
Joseph Pride STOCKMAN 2
Danny O’Brien YOUNG WERTHER 21
Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott HOO YA MAL 15
Robert Hickmott SERPENTINE 23
Ciaron Maher & David Eustace GRAND PROMENADE 1
Bjorn Baker ARAPAHO 19
Michael Moroney EMISSARY 3
Grahame Begg LUNAR FLARE 12
Ciaron Maher & David Eustace SMOKIN’ ROMANS 16
Symon Wilde TRALEE ROSE 22
Ciaron Maher & David Eustace HIGH EMOCEAN 8
Ciaron Maher & David Eustace INTERPRETATION 6
Anthony & Sam Freedman REALM OF FLOWERS 5

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.

Year Trainer Horse Weight Age
2020 Joseph O’Brien Twilight Payment 55.5kg 8
2019 Danny O’Brien Vow And Declare 52kg 4
2018 Charlie Appleby Cross Counter 51kg 4
2017 Joseph O’Brien Rekindling 52kg 4
2016 Rob Hickmott Almandin 52kg 7
2015 Darren Weir Prince of Penzance 53kg 6
2014 Andreas Wohler Protectionist 56.5kg 5
2013 Gai Waterhouse Fiorente 55kg 6
2012 Rob Hickmott Green Moon 53.5kg 6
2011 Mikel Delzangles Dunaden 54.5kg 6
2010 Alain De Royer-Dupre Americain 54.5kg 6
2009 Mark Kavanagh Shocking 51kg 4
2008 Bart Cummings Viewed 53kg 5
2007 Graeme Rogerson Efficient 54.5kg 4
2006 Katsuhiko Sumii Delta Blues 56kg 6
2005 Lee Freedman Makybe Diva 58kg 7
2004 Lee Freedman Makybe Diva 55.5kg 6
2003 David Hall Makybe Diva 51kg 5
2002 Dermot Weld Media Puzzle 52.5kg 6
2001 Sheila Laxon Ethereal 52kg 4

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.

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.


How much does the trainer win at the Melbourne Cup?

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.

How many Melbourne Cups has trainer Chris Waller won?

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.

Who came last in Melbourne Cup 2020?

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.

Who is running in the Melbourne Cup 2023?

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

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