Ton-up Dan Skelton eyes more glory in Stratford’s final meeting of the season

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IT’S the final meeting of 2018 at Stratford on Thursday and Alcester trainer Dan Skelton, who brought up his century for the season when Sam Red and William Marshall came with a storming finish to snatch victory at Cheltenham on Friday, has plenty of entries on the six-race card, writes David Hucker.

Although not hitting the target as regularly as in the summer, Skelton is still operating at a 24 per cent strike rate and Sam Red’s win gave him the earliest century in jump racing history, beating Martin Pipe’s record achieved when his hundred came up on 3rd November 2001.

By the start of the week, Skelton had run 158 individual horses since the season began on 4th May and is pushing on to the next level, having made 21 entries across Tuesday’s two cards and more throughout the week, including eight at Stratford.

He runs five of them, starting with point-to-point winner Diomede Des Mottes in the opening Eric Harris Retires Today Maiden Hurdle, to be run over a trip of two and three-quarter miles, which gets the meeting underway at 1.10pm.

Unplaced on his hurdles debut at Uttoxeter, Diomede Des Mottes also held an entry back at the course on Friday, but Skelton has elected to run him here where he may find another point-to-point winner Shannon Hill, who scored by a wide margin on his only start for Francesca Nimmo, a tough nut to crack on his debut for Alan King.

Next up is the Charlotte Cole Memorial Beginners’ Chase in which Nicky Henderson’s smart hurdler Thomas Campbell, who has a career-high rating of 158, is likely to go off a short-price favourite to beat Skelton’s Stowaway Magic, who went down by just a neck on his first start for the yard, having won four times when at Henderson’s Lambourn stable.

On official ratings, Vancouver stands out in the intriguingly-named Alistair Admits His Age Conditional Jockeys’ Selling Hurdle. Off the course for 11 months, he broke a blood vessel when tailed off on his comeback run at Worcester in September, which could be a cause of concern for punters this time, and course winner Elysian Prince might represent a safer option.

Course winner Comanche Chieftain has struck up a good rapport with jockey Wayne Hutchinson and they will be looking to score another victory in the Charlie Longsdon Racing Handicap Chase, worth a total of £16,800. Skelton saddles Cobra De Mai, the winner of four chases, the last of which came at Warwick in February.

Skelton’s dual winner Not That Fuisse has to give weight to all his rivals in the £12,400 British Stallion Studs EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (Qualifier) and needs to bounce back from a disappointing performance last time in a Chepstow handicap.

Musselburgh bumper winner Seddon found the pace a bit hot at the Cheltenham Festival, but this looks a good opportunity to open his account over hurdles for the McNeill Family who had two winners at Chepstow on Tuesday, both ridden by Adrian Heskin.

The J.H. Rowe Memorial Handicap Chase brings the curtain down on a year which started badly for the course with the loss of the first two meetings, but saw another successful hunter chase evening in June and some competitive racing in glorious sunshine throughout the summer.

Recent course winner One Forty Seven tops the weights and he has been put up 7lb in the handicap for his 11 length defeat of Opechee. His task was made easier when leader Return Flight came down, but he is still a young horse who could be improving and looks the one the others have to beat.

Dr Robin was scoring for the third time over fences when getting the verdict by a nose at Ffos Las for the Bowen family and hat-trick seeking Bradford Bridge, the mount of leading jockey Richard Johnson, runs here in preference to Uttoxeter on Friday and must be another for the shortlist.