Trainer Alan King and Cheltenham Festival

Alan King’s stables are at Barbury Castle near Marlborough in Wiltshire. Asked to name his main contenders for The Festival which takes place over four days at Cheltenham, Tuesday, 16 March to Friday, 19 March, he said: “Medermit, Bensalem, The Betchworth Kid and Mille Chief.”

Last year, Alan had to wait until the last race to gain a winner at The Festival, despite his horses running well. He said: “You can always cope when they are running as well as they were. The one niggle was Medermit who I did think was very unlucky in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Choc and I looked at each other and said ‘I hope this does not set the trend’. It nearly did with Old Crick getting us out of trouble in the final race.”

He ended up with four seconds and three thirds, plus one winner, at The 2009 Festival.

Alan had a slow start to this season and faced among other issues, a muscle enzyme problem among the horses. He commented: “The muscle enzyme problem was dealt with nutritionally.”

Born into a farming family in Lanarkshire on 13 December, 1966, Alan was a member of a local pony club and also competed on the show jumping circuit before joining David Nicholson as an amateur jockey in 1985, having previously worked for John Wilson in his native Scotland.

Alan managed to finish third in a couple of hunter chases, but soon realised that race riding was not for him and served as assistant for 15 years to Nicholson, from whom he took over the licence at Jackdaws Castle stables near Temple Guiting in Gloucestershire on 3 December, 1999.

He only had to wait until the following day for Mini Moo Min to provide him with a first success at Towcester. In that rookie season, Alan also saddled Relkeel to take a third totesport Bula Hurdle (now the International) at Cheltenham a week after breaking his duck, and the following weekend took the totesport Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot with Anzum, who formed part of a four‑timer. He also sent out Go Ballistic to finish second behind See More Business in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Alan was based at Jackdaws Castle, then owned by Colin Smith, until the end of the 1999/2000 season, when he moved (1 June, 2000) to the Barbury Castle estate near Marlborough, Wiltshire, which was bought by one of his principal owners, Nigel Bunter, and the trainer has since gone from strength to strength.

Horses of the calibre of Stromness, winner of the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in 2002, Spendid, victorious in the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle at Ascot the same year, and 2004 Grade Two Byrne Bros Cleeve Hurdle victor Crystal D’Ainay helped to cement Alan’s position as one of the most talented and successful trainers in Britain.

He gained 66 successes during the 2004/05 season, and came within three of that total the following term. A memorable campaign in terms of both numbers and quality in the 2006/07 season saw him end the term with 92 winners, while there was another leap forward in 2007/2008 when 128 successes were seen.


Alan’s first win at The Festival came in 2004, when Fork Lightning won the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase, and the following year the trainer landed the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Penzance.

The 2006 Cheltenham Festival saw Alan secure a superb Grade One double, as first Voy Por Ustedes captured The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, getting the better of Monet’s Garden in a cracking finish, and then My Way De Solzen battled to victory in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, edging out Irish challenger Golden Cross.

Alan went one better when completing a Grade One treble over the four days at Prestbury Park in 2007. My Way De Solzen got the ball rolling when charging up the hill five lengths clear of Fair Along to give the handler back‑to‑back wins in The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy on the opening day, while Voy Por Ustedes landed the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase in fantastic style from Dempsey just over 24 hours later.

Katchit rounded off the perfect Festival for Alan when scoring a runaway nine‑length victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle on the fourth day.

Katchit returned to The Festival in 2008 to take the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, becoming the first five-year-old to triumph in the championship race for 23 years, while Nenuphar Collognes won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and Charlie Huxley rode Old Benny to victory in the National Hunt Chase.

A superb meeting also included the performances of Coral Cup third Junior, Franchoek, second to Celestial Halo in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, and Voy Por Ustedes, who found another Paul Nicholls-trained superstar, Master Minded, too strong when trying to retain his crown in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Last season saw Alan take third spot in the trainers’ championship for a second consecutive season, with a career-best 136 wins to his name and £1,888,035 in total prize money.

Voy Por Ustedes continued to be a standard-bearer for the stable, easily landing the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase and recording a second victory in the Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree. Alan continued to enjoy remarkable success with his juvenile hurdlers as Walkon triumphed in the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle in December.

Hopes were high for both horses at The Festival as Voy Por Ustedes was sent off a red-hot favourite for the Ryanair Chase and Walkon headed the market for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Both horses ran gallant races in defeat with Voy Por Ustedes going down by two lengths to Imperial Commander and Walkon finding Zaynar three-quarters of a length too strong in the JCB Triumph. Medermit also took the runner-up spot behind Go Native in the Spinal Research Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, while Karabak chased home Mikael D’Haguenet in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. 

A frustrating week for the Barbary Castle stable ended on a brighter note as Oh Crick landed the final race of The Festival, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, giving Alan the 700th victory of his training career.

A muscle enzyme problem affected much of Alan’s string at the start of the current season, but the horses have started to hit their stride in recent weeks. Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle contender Medermit was third behind Khyber Kim in both the Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle and the Grade Two International but claimed the scalp of Punjabi in the Grade Two Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock in January.

Karabak performed admirably on both his appearances of the campaign so far. After coming home second behind Zaynar in the Grade Two Ascot Hurdle in November, the seven-year-old chased home current Ladbrokes World Hurdle favourite Big Buck’s in the Grade Two Long Walk Hurdle at Newbury the following month. Seasoned performers like Voy Por Ustedes and Katchit have also continued to respectably this term and both horses are on course for another appearance at The Festival.

The now customary strong hand of novice hurdlers has been headed by the exciting four-year-old Mille Chief, who had recorded convincing victories at Kempton and Huntingdon on his last two appearances.

Talented Flat performers The Betchworth Kid and Manyriverstocross have both made a pleasing transition to the smaller obstacles, while horses like Salden Licht and Whistlejacquet have all made an excellent start to their hurdling careers. There have been 50 winners so far this jump season.

Alan married his wife Rachel in Antigua in 1998 and they have a son Henry and a daughter Georgia.


William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase (2004)

Fork Lightning ridden by Robert Thornton

JCB Triumph Hurdle (2005)

Penzance ridden by Robert Thornton 

The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (2006)

Voy Por Ustedes ridden by Robert Thornton 

Ladbrokes World Hurdle (2006)

My Way De Solzen ridden by Robert Thornton   

The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (2007)

My Way De Solzen ridden by Robert Thornton 

Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase (2007)

Voy Por Ustedes  ridden by Robert Thornton

JCB Triumph Hurdle (2007)

Katchit ridden by Robert Thornton 

Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle (2008)

Katchit ridden by Robert Thornton 

National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup (2008)

Old Benny ridden by Charlie Huxley

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2008)

Nenuphar Collognes ridden by Robert Thornton 

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (2009)

Oh Crick ridden by Wayne Hutchinson



• Tuesday, 16 March

Spinal Research Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Spirit Of Adjisa, Salden Licht, Manyriverstocross, Iolith, Whistlejacquet

Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle



• Wednesday, 17 March

140th Year of The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup


Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle

Spirit Of Adjisa, Manyriverstocross, The Betchworth Kid, Swansbrook, Whistlejacquet, Double Pride, Stoney’s Treasure

RSA Chase

Blazing Bailey, Junior, Bensalem, Bakbenscher

Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase

Oh Crick


• Thursday, 18 March

Ryanair Chase

Voy Por Ustedes

Ladbrokes World Hurdle

Katchit, Karabak


• Friday, 19 March

JCB Triumph Hurdle

Peter Grimes, Devil To Pay, Gilded Age, Mille Chief

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

The Betchworth Kid, Chamirey, Swansbrook, Double Pride




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