Dan Skelton Stable Eyeing More Cheltenham Glory at 2021 Festival

| February 23, 2021

West Midlands trainer Dan Skelton has saddled four Cheltenham Festival winners in his career to date. All but one of those came in the same race, the County Hurdle.

After learning his craft under Paul Nicholls, Skelton is hoping to build on past successes with what looks on paper to be his best-ever team of horses for Cheltenham this March. It is a family affair with younger brother Harry and sister-in-law Bridget acting as stable jockeys.

The shift in emphasis from quantity to quality in recent years after the Skelton yard sent out more than 200 winners in the 2018-19 jumps season is one that they hope can pay off. This stable doesn’t just have chances in the Cheltenham Festival handicaps either.

Flying the flag for team Skelton this season have been novice chaser Allmankind and staying hurdles mare Roksana. The former has transformed from a headstrong juvenile into a very smart prospect over fences.

Allmankind finished third in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, but has taken to the larger obstacles superbly. After winning the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, he would probably be favourite for the Arkle in any other year, but there is stiff competition for this race in the form of Shishkin and Irish raider Energumene.

Roksana, meanwhile, added two Grade 2 victories to her CV during the winter. Skelton must decide whether to drop her back in distance for a bid at regaining the Mares’ Hurdle or stick at three miles and contest the Stayers come Cheltenham. Tackling horses of her own gender again may be slightly easier this time around.

Other graded winners sent out from the yard this season include My Drogo, who could go well in the Festival opener. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle doesn’t actually look to have a lot of depth to it on paper, so Skelton may fancy his chances of a place.

Shan Blue took the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas. Although turned over in his bid for back-to-back Grade 1s at Sandown, he could still have a say in the Marsh at Cheltenham for all the race is at the mercy of undefeated Irish raider Envoi Allen.

Skelton will also have horses primed for more Festival handicap honours. Impressive course winner Protektorat may be among runners for the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase when entries are revealed, and has since placed at Grade 2 level.

Listed Ascot handicap scorer Amoola Gold also brings good form to the table this season. He was held just a neck by subsequent Grade 1 winner First Flow on his penultimate start, so something like the Grand Annual Chase which has moved places in the Cheltenham schedule to Ladies Day could be on the cards.

Cadzand has been progressive over hurdles, meanwhile, and may end up in either the Supreme or the County Hurdle. Skelton’s sights may be higher than winning the latter Festival race for the fourth time in six seasons, but it could be well worth following this stable at Cheltenham. 

Category: International

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