Alcester trainer Dan Skelton says he will "live the moment" after Protektorat wins Betfair Chase at Haydock Park
PROTEKTORAT provided Alcester trainer Dan Skelton with his biggest winner to date when strolling to an 11-length success in the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, which launched him into contention for next year’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup in the process, writes Nick Seddon.
The Haydock Park showpiece on Saturday was one of the key pointers for Cheltenham’s Blue Riband race and Protektorat, whose part-owners include Sir Alex Ferguson, was deeply impressive when sealing success for Skelton and his jockey brother Harry.
Those in-behind him included last year’s Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard, who disappointed for Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead, though it was difficult not to be impressed with how Protektorat brushed away his rivals, which included three-time Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai and a King George victor in Frodon.
And when asked about his future plans for Protektorat – including a potential tilt at next month’s King George VI Chase at Kempton Park – a delighted Skelton revealed that he was keen to savour the moment.
He said: “This has been the culmination of what I set out to do when I started training and it’s a big thing.
“When you win these races sometimes you’ve got to move on to the next day but this one I’m going to really savour. We’re all guilty of not living in the moment sometimes, but this one I’m really going to live.
“The Betfair Chase is one of the grails of three-mile steeplechasing and it’s a magical race to be a part of.
"One of the first people to congratulate me when I got back in was Paul Nicholls and obviously when I worked with him for all those years, you felt like you tripped over these in the dark when Kauto Star was around – but it’s a lot harder than that.
“I’m not going to say that he’ll come out of this and improve again, because we had him very ready for that.
“I think it’s going to take a bit of time to get over this, we’re obviously aiming for the Gold Cup and everyone knows that, and I don’t think we’ll go for the King George. I should imagine we’ll go to Lingfield or to the Cotswold Chase at the end of January.
“The favourite underperformed and we’re going to have to cross swords with him when he’s on better form, so it’s always a strong division and we’re very proud to have one right up there. I think it’s a PB for Protektorat, a PB for me and a PB for Harry.”