Who Were the Best Trainers in 2018?

We have come to the end of 2018 and now is as good a time as any to reflect on the best-performing trainers of the year, from the perspective of a punter. In this article, I will look at trainers on the Flat, AW, and National Hunt, and see if this year was par for the course or an anomaly. The data in this article relates solely to UK races.

National Hunt

Horse racing statistics can sometimes be a lie, and nothing illustrates this point better than the record of Michael Chapman. He had just one win from 38 entries in 2018 yet you would still have earned a huge profit because this winner, Les Fremantle, triumphed at Market Rasen at Exchange odds of 161/1!

At the other end of the scale, Nicky Henderson had one of the highest win ratios of any trainer with more than 100 entries at 28.07%. Backing all of his runners would have netted a Betfair profit of 7.25%, even though the A/E value on his horses was just 0.97. It was the first profitable Henderson year since 2014.

Keith Dalgleish was one of the most profitable trainers of the year. You would have earned a profit of 28.79% by backing all 127 runners as they had a win percentage of 20.47%. However, the A/E value of 0.88 suggests that you were not getting good value. Here’s a selection of other profitable NH trainers in 2018:

Trainer Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) A/E
Dr. Richard Newland 198 57 28.79% 16.27% 1.08
Gordon Elliot 145 47 32.41% 66.19% 1.35
Tom Lacey 173 44 25.43% 51.79% 1.19

Dr. Richard Newlands had an impressive year, and with an A/E value of above 1.00, punters got value from his runners. However, he has posted a loss in 3 of the previous 4 years.

Gordon Elliot has been a sensation in 2018 with a huge 32%-win rate coupled with a marvellous A/E value of 1.35. It was yet another strong showing from Tom Lacey with a profit of over 51% if you backed all of his entries. It was his third consecutive profitable year, and on all three occasions, the A/E value has been at least 1.16.


Over on the flat, Michael Attwater had another year to forget with just one win from 89 races! In fact, he has won just 24 races from 410 entries in the last five years. Laying all of his entries would yield a profit of 40%. It was also the first time in five years that backing all of John Gosden’s entries would have resulted in a loss. This is despite his win rate of almost 23% in 2018 being the highest he has achieved in that time!

In any case, here are three Flat trainers that potentially boosted the bank balance of bettors in 2018:

Trainer Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) A/E
Owen Burrows 114 24 21.05% 9.72% 1.02
David Elsworth 96 16 16.67% 21.68% 1.22
Karen McLintock 57 11 19.3% 56.21% 1.55

It was a good year for the fledgling trainer who has only been active in the UK since 2016. His win rate was reasonable for a Flat trainer in 2018, and with an A/E of 1.02, you also received value for money. His win rate has increased in each of the last three years, as has his A/E value, which means he could be one to watch in 2019.

David Elsworth also had a profitable year. Although his win rate was low, he had several winners at nice prices and punters benefited from excellent value for money in general. It was the fourth time in five years that backing all of Elsworth’s entries earned a profit which makes him a trainer to follow in 2019.

Karen McLintock had her best year to date as the up and coming trainer enjoyed her highest strike rate in the last five years at over 19%. The number of McLintock entries has increased in each of the last five years, and with an A/E of 1.55, her runners offered fantastic value in 2018.


After a long spell of consistent profit, Ralph Beckett finally showed a loss of 5.56% in 2018. With an A/E of 0.85, it seems as if the bookmakers finally caught up to Beckett after four consecutive years of profitability.

Let’s see if there were any AW trainers worth backing in 2018.

Trainer Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) A/E
Marco Botti 276 28 10.14% 16.58% 0.75
Keith Dalgleish 167 18 10.78% 31.84% 0.78
Jonathan Portman 92 15 16.3% 177.94% 1.80

Although Marco Botti showed a profit for the third time in four years, a combination of low strike rate and poor A/E means his entries probably didn’t help any bettors fulfil their dreams of retirement.

On the surface, Keith Dalgleish had a good season for the bettor with a profit of almost 32%. However, the low win rate and A/E, coupled with the fact that following him would have resulted in heavy losses in 2015, 2016, and 2017, means he is not one to watch in All-Weather races in 2019.

Jonathan Portman has been a boom or bust AW trainer in the last five years. Following him in 2014 and 2016 would have yielded losses of 54% and 62% respectively. However, following his horses in 2015, 2017 and 2018 would have yielded enormous profits. His 177% profit in 2018 is actually dwarfed by 450% in 2015 and 850% in 2017.

His 2018-win rate was the best in five years, and with an A/E of 1.80, Portman’s entries offered value. In fact, the minimum A/E value in the three profitable years was 1.35.

Who to Follow in 2019?

Based on the data from 2018, and the years that preceded it, Tom Lacey is worth a look in National Hunt racing in 2019. On the Flat, Owen Burrows, David Elsworth and Karen McLintock could provide a few memorable wins this year. As for All-Weather racing, keep an eye out for Jonathan Portman runners because when he is on fire, you can make the bookmakers pay.

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.


  1. Hi Patrick, How does one calculate A/E? And is that similar to impact value? Thanks Robert

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