Dan Skelton Cheltenham Festival runners – Can Team Skelton strike Festival gold?
Dan Skelton’s Cheltenham Festival hopes
The ascent of Dan Skelton towards the top echelons of the training game has been noteworthy since breaking out of the shadow of Paul Nicholls for whom he worked with for nine years as Assistant Trainer. We look over some of the main Dan Skelton Cheltenham Festival hopes where the trainer has some powerful runners to go to war with.
Nine years with master trainer Paul Nicholls has certainly taught Dan Skelton a thing or two about training racehorses and the master of Lodge Hill has year on year got ever stronger with regular flow of success and some top names have passed through Skelton’s hands including Al Ferof, Ch’tibello, Mohaayed, Aux Ptits Soins and Roksana amongst others.
Ably assisted in the saddle by brother Harry, Team Skelton has enjoyed some notable Cheltenham Festival success with their finest moment coming with Roksana winning the 2019 David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle for a first Grade One success.
For the 2021 Cheltenham Festival Team Skelton will be even stronger than before and where they are sure to have some nice types lined up for the handicap contests as well as some of the top prizes on offer. We’ve looked over some of the big guns that will carry the Dan Skelton Cheltenham Festival hopes of adding to their tally at the greatest show on turf.
Dan Skelton Cheltenham Festival runners on day one
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
It will be a tall order for THIRD TIME LUCKI to get involved in the finish of the Cheltenham Festival day one opener but the progressive Arcadio gelding can give a good account of himself nonetheless.
A dual-winner in bumpers he finished fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper behind Ferny Hollow and he’s taken really well to the hurdling game where he’s won three of his five starts to date.
Wins at Uttoxeter and Wetherby were followed by a solid runner-up effort behind For Pleasure here in November when contesting the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle. Having quickly regained the winning thread at Kempton on Boxing Day with a ready defeat of Flic Ou Voyou he was slightly disappointing at Musselburgh in February but certainly didn’t aid his cause with a bad blunder at the last which saw him sprawl on landing and lose valuable momentum.
He’s the type who could quickly bounce back and he could post a much better run this time around for all he certainly needs to improve a fair bit.
Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase
Team Skelton have a live player in this contest with ALLMANKIND who was was well-fancied for last season’s Triumph Hurdle before finishing third and having been switched to chasing this term the Sea The Moon gelding is unbeaten in three starts.
The Skelton runner produced a top-drawer performance to win the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, making all and jumping well to hold off Hitman from the Paul Nicholls camp with Eldorado Allen – who subsequently finished runner-up to Shishkin at Doncaster – a well-beaten fourth.
He latterly ran out a wide-margin winner from Sky Pirate at Warwick in the more recent Kingmaker Novices’ Chase where he survived a blunder two from home to win readily and the sometimes tendency he had shown over hurdles to not see out his races wasn’t in evidence as he knuckled down well from the last to score the win.
There were a few mistakes on the way round at Warwick that he’d do well to avoid at Cheltenham but the ground might not have helped and the possibility of a better surface will be more suitable and he rates a big player.
Dan Skelton Cheltenham Festival runners on day two
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
WILDE ABOUT OSCAR won his first two outings over hurdles this term, scoring at Uttoxeter and Aintree in decisive fashion prior to being tested in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury where he pulled up. He had made a really bad error however in that contest and was soon taken out of the race by jockey Dan Skelton.
The Oscar gelding however bounced back to readily take a Listed prize at Exeter early in the month and there may yet be more to come from him with the potential for further improvement. He’ll need to improve in a typically strong renewal, but he travelled well at Exeter and hinted that there was more in the locker and despite stumbling over the second last he was a good winner.
There may be worse outsiders in the field at shorter odds and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a big run from the six-year old where he can give a good account of himself.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
A decent sort over hurdles NUBE NEGRA has taken his form up a level or two since being switched to chasing, winning twice last term and runner-up in two defeats from four starts which included the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase behind Esprit Du Large and then finding only Rouge Vif too strong in the Kingmaker at Warwick.
Back from almost eleven months off the track the Dink gelding saw off dual-Champion Chase winner Altior to take the Desert Orchid Chase with a three lengths’ victory where he was always travelling and jumping well and despite a semblance of a mistake at the last he was always in command for an impressive success.
The Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival will present a much sterner challenge taking on Altior again as well as the likes of Chacun Pour Soi and defending champion Politologue; but he’s still lightly raced over fences and could well continue on his upward curve with a big performance for all he’ll likely need to show a bit more improvement.
Unbeaten in two starts ELLE EST BELLE could throw her hat into the ring for the Champion Bumper and Dan Skelton’s Fame And Glory mare can give a good account have dead-heated for first place in a Listed contest here in November having previously impressed in victory at Aintree.
She looked all over the eventual joint-winner until late on in that race, joined on the line by Harry Fry’s horse; but she’s likely to continue to progress and will surely have improvement to come although she’ll need it to feature in a typically white-hot renewal of this prize.
Nevertheless she could each-way punters a run for their money and a solid performance wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Dan Skelton Cheltenham Festival runners on day three
Marsh Novices’ Chase
Day three of the Cheltenham Festival kicks off with the Marsh Novices’ Chase and it is slightly strange to see Skelton’s SHAN BLUE entered here rather than the former RSA Chase given he’s posted arguably his best runs over fences when tried at three miles which includes victory over The Big Breakaway in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
The Shantou gelding had been progressive over hurdles, chasing home Shishkin before posting a very good sixth to Envoi Allen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle twelve months ago. Switched to chasing for this campaign he has proven a top-class prospect with three wins where he’s been faultless at his obstacles and that sound jumping will be an asset around Cheltenham.
Outstayed in the mud by Sporting John in the recent Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase he might have been bogged down slightly in the conditions although his slick, fast jumping again came to the fore although he was unable to hold off the winner on the long climb to the line in the mud having jumped the last in front.
Better conditions at Cheltenham would suit and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him firmly in the mix in this race despite taking on the likes of Envoi Allen again and his solid jumping can see him bag a place at least and he could be a decent each-way play in the race for those holding Cheltenham free bets.
Although she holds an entry in the Mares’ Hurdle on day one of the Festival surely Dan Skelton will be tempted to take a crack at the Stayers’ Hurdle with his ROKSANA who has shown some top level form over the three miles trip.
Having capitalised on the fall of Benie Des Dieux to take the Mares’ Hurdle prize in 2019 she went on to go close at Aintree in a Grade One. Last season was a bit of a disappointing one where she failed to win in four starts although she did run well in defeat in two runs here behind Summerville Boy in the Relkeel Hurdle and when fourth in defence of her Mares’ Hurdle crown behind the unbeaten Honeysuckle.
She’s had three runs this term over three miles, running out a ready winner of the West Yorkshire Hurdle on her return before losing no caste in defeat behind Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle where the heavy ground possibly went against her.
That was a good effort nonetheless and she readily got back on the scoresheet in the Warfield Hurdle, beating Magic Of Light by eight lengths. Better ground come March will certainly suit her although she’ll have no issue handling some cut and she doesn’t have a lot to find with the two principals Paisley Park and Thyme Hill on form so she looks to hold very solid claims if lining up.
Dan Skelton Cheltenham Festival runners on day four
Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase
A new race on the Cheltenham Festival day four racecard and Dan Skelton could have a lively each-way player in EMMAS JOY who was a good sort over hurdles where he won three times including the Jane Seymour Mares’ Chase at Warwick last February in a seven-race campaign that rounded off with a fair seventh behind Concertista in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
As a former point-to-point winner she could well improve for the switch to the larger obstacles and while we’ve yet to see her this season the yard has done well with its’ novices this term and she’s sure to have been well schooled at home.
This of course would be a tough introduction if turning out, taking in a Grade Two on her chase debut; but the fact she’s been entered is noteworthy and if she were to take her chance she could be of interest.