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Cheltenham ante-post tips: Protektorat leads Dan Skelton Festival team

A Look at Skelton’s Stars Ahead of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival

Dan Skelton sent out his first Cheltenham Festival winner with Superb Story in the 2016 County Hurdle. He has gone on to win the same race with Mohaayed (2018) and Ch’tibello (2019). He also won the Mares’ Hurdle with Roksana in 2019 and will be keen to add to his festival tally this year. We have taken a sneak preview of his likely Cheltenham Festival team in 2022.

Protektorat the best of British in Cheltenham Gold Cup

Skelton has some very talented chasers in his Cheltenham squad, led by impressive Aintree winner Protektorat. The gelding won the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree last April over two and a half miles. He reappeared in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November where he finished a close second under top weight.

Next stop was the three miles and one furlong Many Clouds Chase at Aintree where he slammed Native River by 25 lengths. Conditions were quite testing that day with three of the seven runners pulling up so there should be few concerns about his stamina. He is currently 10-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and is the shortest priced British-trained runner.

Shan Blue still holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase, although he has not been seen since falling in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October. He was 20 lengths clear when he fell and it is interesting that Skelton is contemplating running him in the shorter Ryanair Chase. He ran better than his finishing position of fifth suggested behind Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase last season.

Nube Negra freshened up for Champion Chase

Nube Negra went so close in last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, failing by only half a length behind Put The Kettle On. He started his campaign with a stylish win in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November but was disappointing in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown. Skelton immediately decided to give him a break and take him straight to the festival. He is a 12-1 chance behind the big two, Shishkin and Energumene.

Third Time Lucki also has each-way prospects in the Arkle Trophy, despite finishing a well-beaten third to Edwardstone at Sandown in December. He could aim to get his season back on track in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster at the end of January. The consistent Molly Ollys Wishes is a 14-1 chance for the Mare’s Hurdle after her recent victory at Ascot.

Skelton’s phenomenal record in the County Hurdle speaks for itself and he has another leading contender this year in West Cork. He won the Greatwood Hurdle after a 631-day absence and may have been slightly below his best when fifth at Ascot next time. Another to look out for is Unexpected Party who landed a gamble at Ascot in great style in January. The grey still holds an entry in the Ballymore but looks an ideal type for the Coral Cup for which he is quoted at 14-1.

Elle Est Belle is prominent in the betting for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and is entitled to be after placing in last season’s Champion Bumper. Others who could run at the festival include Nurse Susan, Too Friendly and Allmankind. Skelton knows just how hard it is to get a winner at the big meeting but will be going there with plenty of live chances in March.