Skelton confident going into season
TRAINER Dan Skelton is confident he has assembled a team capable of helping him maintain the levels of consistency he enjoyed last season during the 2023/24 Jump season, reports Graham Clark.
After amassing more than £2.6 million in prize money, along with celebrating two Cheltenham Festival winners courtesy of Langer Dan in the Coral Cup, and Faivoir in the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle, it was very much a season to savour for the Alcester handler.
Heading up his powerful team once again will be Protektorat, who remains on course to defend his title in the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on November 25th.
Skelton said: “We will be going to Haydock Park fresh and ready. The way we will have him ready for that race is that we will have him properly ready. I think it will take a good one on the day to beat him.
“He will have his entry in the King George (VI Chase at Kempton Park) after that and we will look at that.
“We will have to look sensibly at the Cheltenham Gold Cup as we have had two goes at it and it hasn’t happened yet, but we will worry about the spring when we get to it.”
Protektorat will not be the only member of Skelton’s team that will be asked to defend a title with Ashtown Lad given the Boylesports Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree on December 9th as his early season target.
Skelton said: “Basically all roads lead back to the Becher Chase as he loves those Grand National fences. He will run at Bangor first in the race Le Milos won last year. He wasn’t quick enough for the Topham (at Aintree) in the spring time, but we accept that.
“I think we have got a horse that didn’t have a particularly gruelling campaign last season who can hopefully go and get some business done and win that Becher Chase again.”
One horse Skelton is particularly pleased to have back on his team sheet is Grade One winning hurdler My Drogo, who missed all of last season through injury.
He said: “My Drogo is back, and I’m delighted with how he looks. I’d like to try and start him off in the Old Roan up at Aintree at the end of the month. That would be the perfect scenario.
“He will have an entry in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes who own him are mad keen to get him to the King George on Boxing Day so we are trying to work him towards that.”
As for those yet to reach their full potential Skelton is particularly excited about Grey Dawning, who will switch to fences this season after a promising term over hurdles highlighted by his Grade Two success in the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.
He said: “It was very frustrating that he fell in the Grade One at Aintree as I think he might have nearly won. I think he will very quickly make amends for that fall.
“I think we might start him over three miles at Wetherby on November 3rd. I would be looking at the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as a first half of the season target.”