Lucinda Russell – Scotland’s Greatest Racehorse Trainer

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Together with partner and assistant trainer, eight-time champion National Hunt jockey Peter Scudamore, Lucinda Russell is based at Arlay House Stables, near Kinross, Perth and Kinross, Scotland. Indeed, her 2017 Grand National winner, One For Arthur, was just the second winner of the celebrated steeplechase, after Rubstic in 1979, to be trained in Scotland and just the fifth to be trained by a woman. The following year, Russell was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to horse racing in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

A graduate of St. Andrews University, Russell enjoyed success as an eventer, showjumper and point-to-point trainer before taking out a public training licence in 1995. She saddled her first winner, Fiveleigh Builds, in a handicap chase at Perth Racecourse in September that year and has gone on to saddle over 600 winners.

One For Arthur aside, career highlights include winning the Grand National Trial at Haydock three times, with Silver By Nature in 2010 and 2011 and Lie Forrit in 2015, and winning the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012. As the trainer responsible for two of the first four horses to run after the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) made notice of a wind operation compulsory in 2018, Russell told the Racing Post, ‘I’ve always felt you’re better to be open about things and then people can make up their own minds.’


Of course, the highlight of any horse trainer’s career is that huge race wins, with millions of onlookers watching on as the horse you have poured your heart and soul into reaches the winning post first.

Russell is no stranger to that feeling, having won the Aintree Grand National in 2017 as well as pretty much every other steeplechase event that exists in the British Isles.

All in all, Russell has trained over 700 winning racehorses during her time as a trainer and that number only looks set to grow with more than 80 horses currently under her care.

It is fair to say that Russell has done more than most to put horseracing well and truly on the map in Scotland, with locals always likely to turn out in greater number if there is a local horse, jockey, or trainer to cheer down the final few furlongs.

When people talk about famous trainers of racehorses, they tend to only focus on those individuals south of the border or over in the United States.

However, to do so would be folly, especially seeing as one of the very best in the world plies her trade in Kinross, on the banks of the wild Loch Leven.

Lucinda Russell has been grooming horses for success since 1995 and her achievements were recognized by a well-deserved OBE from the queen in 2018.

Lucinda Russell Racing is Scotland’s leading National Hunt yard. Since 1995 Lucinda Russell has been training National Hunt horses, training over seven hundred winners including nine graded winners and winners at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals.

We look at how she got to the top of the sport, as well as how she plans to stay there.

Women Can Train Horses Just As Good As Men

The actual job of training a horse isn’t something that requires someone to have skills that one gender has but the other lacks. The head trainer at stables will be responsible for running the place, managing their staff, and ensuring that a horse’s training schedule is such that they can be successfully prepared for the race that they’re supposed to be running in.

Trainers are also responsible for the welfare of the horses under their control, working around 45 hours every week for a wage of somewhere between £15,000 and £45,000 per year. Obviously, the more successful a trainer is, the more money they will earn. This is both thanks to the increased prize money they’ll receive and the fact that more people will want them to train their horses.

If someone wishes to become a trainer then they will need to gain a minimum of five years’ experience working in yards. They’ll also need to take a pre-license course and pass it before applying to the British Horseracing Authority for a license. Trainers need to monitor a horse’s progress and development, creating training and exercising routines for them; it’s not a simple job.

Talent Distilled in the Highlands

Russell got her start in the business of horses when she was given a country estate by her parents, who made their money in the whisky trade. She quickly converted it into the training facility she still uses today.

Her love for horses came simply from petting them as a child, later dedicating herself to training after she went to watch some live races.

Champion Jockey Partner Helps

While most of Russell’s success has come from her tireless passion for horses and their wellbeing, any top trainer always needs some support along the way.

As well as all the dedicated staff at her Arlary base that Russell can call upon, she also happens to be in a relationship with eight-time champion jockey Richard Scudamore, who acts as assistant trainer at Arlary, casting his keen eye over not only over the horses in the yard but also the men and women who are tasked with riding them.

It is no doubt a winning combination, with Russell and Scudamore constantly fielding front runners that appear on online race cards on every horse racing lover’s phone or laptop.

However, despite Scudamore’s pedigree in the racing world, he still very much plays second fiddle to Russell, who is the queen of her paddocks and stables.

Dealing with Tragedy

In a career that has spanned three decades it would be impossible to have gone through it all without suffering some tragedies.

Unfortunately, Arlary has seen more than its fair share with the tragic passing of well-liked jockey Campbell Gillies in a freak holiday accident, which followed soon after the death of Brindisi Breeze, a winning horse who escaped its stable one night and perished on the main road.

However, far from dwelling on these terrible spells of bad fortune, Russell has redoubled her efforts to make her training center the premier establishment in Scotland and beyond, even if she has had to do some soul searching along the way.

Leading racehorse trainer Lucinda Russell says the sport in Scotland is flourishing with increased investment from owners in the quality of horses.

Russell will have two horses – Mighty Thunder and Big River – in Sunday’s Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

Nine in the field of 31 have been trained in Scotland.

“Since 2017, racing up here has got a lot better,” Russell said. “Owners are investing money in really nice horses and trainers have upgraded facilities.”

She does not think it will be a one-off.

“In the future, there will be a lot more interest in the Scottish National and the big handicaps,” she said. “It’s credit to the owners who stick with us and keep investing in horses with us.”

Race favourite at 7/1 is Aye Right, trained in Jedburgh by Harriet Graham.

The eight-year-old has only one victory in his previous eight chase but was a high-class hurdler and was a winner at Ayr in his only two previous visits to the track. The one doubt could be the ability to stay the marathon distance of four miles, but Graham is cautiously optimistic about the gelding’s stamina.

“My instinct is that he will, but until we actually run him over that distance, how do we really know?” she said. “He has certainly never been out on his feet, particularly at Newbury, when he was jig-jogging back into the paddock. He looked the freshest horse at the finish.

“If he gets into that rhythm of jumping and galloping then I really think he will stay, but who knows?”

Graham thinks the ground conditions are in Aye Right’s favour too.

“We have always said he likes a sounder surface,” she said. “He can handle just about anything, but we wouldn’t run him on really heavy ground.”

Graham described Jedburgh as “a real racing area” and suggested that “small trainers can give the individual horse much more hands-on contact”.

“I don’t think anybody should ever be frightened of going to Cheltenham or Aintree from a small yard if you have a good enough horse,” she added.

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