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Alcester trainer Dan Skelton will only take horses with a good chance of winning to Cheltenham Festival

DAN Skelton has revealed that he is keen to only take horses who he feels have a chance of getting into the winners’ enclosure at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, as he looks to build on his tally of four victories at the meeting, writes Nick Seddon.

Dan and Harry Skelton pictured with Gold Cup hopeful Protektorat. Photo: The Jockey Club / PA Images (62463043)
Dan and Harry Skelton pictured with Gold Cup hopeful Protektorat. Photo: The Jockey Club / PA Images (62463043)

The Alcester trainer has enjoyed a season to remember so far, winning headline races for four weekends running in November and December, and his team will be spearheaded by Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Protektorat.

The eight-year-old was a hugely impressive winner of the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November – one of the key staying chase races of the season – and while he could only finish fourth at Cheltenham last month, Skelton is anticipating a big run in the Gold Cup.

He said: “I held my hands up after Cheltenham, I just didn’t have him as fit as I thought he was. I hoped he’d win and then we would come on to the Gold Cup, but that’s not how it has worked out.

He was third in the Gold Cup last year and he’s a bigger, stronger and better horse than last year.

“I think you all saw at Haydock – when he was at his absolute best – just how good he can be and we just need to knuckle down and get him like he was at Haydock.

“If he goes into the Gold Cup like he did for the Betfair, I think he’s got a real chance.

"He’s a confirmed stayer and he can get round the track and he’s in an open Gold Cup.

“Galopin Des Champs aside it’s a very open race, everyone’s had a go at each other and there’s been different results along the line.

"On our Haydock form we’re right up there, it was a season leading performance.

“In general though I’m not going to have a massive team and I only want to take horses who have a real chance of getting into the winner’s enclosure.

"We try not to take too many 100-1 chances if we can help it.”

Another key player for Skelton is Nube Negra, who’s a 16-1 chance for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the time of writing.

The nine-year-old was victorious in a Grade Two contest at Cheltenham in November and Skelton feels the recent dry weather would play into his hands.

He said: “It’s a very open race and everyone has beaten each other. Everyone has got reasons for why they were beaten and everyone has got reasons for why they’ve improved.

“He’s very effective when very fresh, he was fresh at Cheltenham and the better the ground the better his chance.

"If the Champion Chase was next Wednesday with this forecast he would have to be a shorter price than what he would be on any other ground.

“We know that when it gets soft and heavy it’s completely against him but, hopefully, we don’t get that again like we did on the Wednesday of last year. I think you can all see that if it’s a decent ground race, he’ll be bang there.”

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