StableTalk: Dan Skelton reveals all about his Open meeting runners this weekend and more
Dan Skelton blog
Coral horse racing ambassador Dan Skelton took time out during a hectic day at Prestbury Park to exclusively discuss his Cheltenham The Open meeting runners.
Dan also spoke about his weekend entrants at Uttoxeter and Wetherby. Without further ado, here’s the latest edition of StableTalk…
It’s a busy weekend for us but that’s good news. Now we’ve had a bit of rain we can start running everything which is ideal. It’s been a good week; we had two winners on Monday, then one Tuesday and Wednesday along with some good placed efforts over the last two days, so they’re all running well.
Corrin Wood has lost his form and it’s his first run for us. Hopefully he’s been given a chance by the handicapper and Bridget takes another three pounds off. He has a featherweight and he’ll love the ground, but we’ve got to go and get some form next to his name. The owners love the horse, and he’s a real gentleman at home too. Tomorrow it’s a case of finding out where we are without any big expectations. He works like a stayer which is why we are running over three miles, he’s fresh and well and he looks great, so let’s hope for a good run.
He’ll probably start a shorter price than he should do because whenever I have a first time runner who’s switched yards they always seem to get backed. Presumably there’s some tipping service or betting syndicate that always seems to back them as we’re not a gambling yard. On Tuesday at Sedgefield it worked out well with Theatrebar for these punters as they just backed him blind. Nobody asked me about the horse so there were no quotes in the paper or online and the horse wasn’t even fully fit, but it was a stable change and he was backed into favouritism. The punters got lucky because nobody asked me. It’s frustrating always seeing them backed whenever a horse has moved stable and is having its first run for me. Everyone thinks we’re a gambling yard when in fact it’s probably some chap sitting on a sofa in Barnsley or somewhere telling everyone to back it because it’s moved stables; they wouldn’t know if the horse was bay, chestnut or grey!
Robin Of Locksley ran well first time out at Cheltenham. He was a little bit keen early on so we’re putting the headgear on him to steady him up in the early stages, and he’s relatively uncomplicated tactically as we’ll just drop him in down the rail. He has a nice weight and he’s run well at the track both times he’s been there, and another three pounds off him is only going to help. This is a good race but he wouldn’t be without an each way chance.
It’s quite interesting as I’ve sent up two horses in the first couple of races at Wetherby that I think are very good and as has Warren Greatrex, so it looks like it’s us versus Warren in both.
I think Whatdouhavtoget is very good. She’s a very exciting mare and the track will be perfect for her, so I think she’ll follow up. But then Warren is probably thinking the same about La Bague Au Roi. I understand he thinks that is his best mare and I think mine is my best mare on what we’ve seen so far, so this will be a good race
Blue Heron is taking on another good one of Warren’s, Ma Du Fou, although I also have respect for The Dutchman. Whether he is quite up to the standard of Blue Heron and Ma Du Fou, however, you wouldn’t know. Blue Heron has had a run which is helpful and he will have improved significantly for it. The ground will be perfect for him and we will see a massive improvement on his Market Rasen run. I’m not saying he will win but you will see a big progression.
Blue Heron is a fragile horse so you can’t work him too hard at home and as such he was always going to run like that first time. I said at the time in my blog that he would improve massively for that run, and he went and got beat. The Stewards had Harry in afterwards, and he had to explain that the horse was finished, that he had nothing left to give. He hadn’t ever got in front and he couldn’t get in front. I don’t think they should have asked the question, it should have been obvious to anyone that the horse had no more to give. This horse is fragile and if you overdo him at home he won’t get to the track. The owners deserve to be able to get that horse to the track where he can have his first race and then be allowed to improve for the run. Nobody can be surprised if he comes on for that run because I’ve been very public with my thoughts.
It’s totally different if you’re on a horse that can win and you don’t ride it out; then the Stewards ask the question. There is no rule that says a jockey must use his stick. There is also no rule that says you must exhaust your horse using every last breath and risk putting your horse on the floor. Had Harry got stuck into Blue Heron when they turned for home there is a good probability he would have fallen at the last because he was exhausted. How would that have looked?
Some Invitation is a really nice horse. He jumps well, does everything nicely and isn’t a bumper horse at all; he’s very much a future chaser. This is a lovely track to start him on with an eye to the future. Charlie Longsdon looks like he has a nice horse with experience in the race but I do like my horse. He might go and finish fifth but we still like him as he has a good future whatever he does on his first start.
This horse will improve massively for this run, very similar to Blue Heron’s first run. That’s all I need to say. He’s been off a long time and I haven’t been able to get stuck into him at home because the grass gallops have only just come into use. He will improve massively.
Kafella is a lovely horse. On his first hurdles start at Wetherby he went down to the first and got put off, hit the top of the hurdle and tumbled over. It was just one of those things. He’s done loads of jumping since and hopefully it won’t happen again, but we need a clear round. He’s a chaser for the future, so let’s just see how he gets on. Like all of mine they are there to do their best, so if he can win he will, but he fell last time out and is only a kid, just four years old, so the main thing is for him to jump round and enjoy himself. We do really like him long term however.
I bought Sierra Oscar off Dai Walters as he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. We just have to see how he gets on. He ran ok in a couple of bumpers, probably wants a trip and he jumps nicely at home. He’ll be doing his best.
This is Virgilio’s half-brother, and he’s a really nice horse at home. I expect him to travel well in the race and he’ll then be going into unknown territory in the last couple of furlongs. He’s done a bit of work on the grass and has a likeable attitude. There are a couple of winners in the race with experience and when you’re a debutant, like my horse, it’s never easy to overcome horses with experience. We are looking forward to getting him started and we can then work out where we go with him. I have no huge expectations but think he should run well.
Sunday: Cheltenham The Open meeting runners
He’s a lovely old horse who did great for us last season winning chunks of prize money and a nice race up at Kelso. He’s been ready to run for a few weeks now but the ground has prevented him from going. He ran really well in this race last year. He’s had a wind opsince laste season and I think he’ll run well. I know it sounds surprising given the quality of the opposition but I really do think he’ll run well.
It’s obviously not ideal that Meet The Legend has to miss this, but in North Hill Harvey and Ch’tibello we have two serious contenders. North Hill Harvey ran a great race in the Supreme last year, but he stepped on the second last hurdle otherwise he would have finished even further up the field. If he’d finished further up the field he would be even higher in the handicap so I’m looking very positively at his current mark; I think we go there with a big chance. There is plenty of rain forecast which will suit him. He was always going to run here or at Wincanton last week, so he’s ready and I do think he’ll go well.
Ch’tibello ran really well at Ascot under top weight, he just wouldn’t want buckets of rain. If they get the rain that is forecast, which is between 6 and 8 millimetres then I think that would be fine bu if they end up getting more then he would be unlikely to run. It was safe to declare him because we weren’t keeping anyone out of the race by declaring. Had there been a situation where horses were going to be balloted out then we would have had a serious conversation about whether to declare. As it happened though we knew it was fine to declare and to wait and see what happened with the rain. He has good recent form a fortnight ago, bundles of speed, and he’s already won a top class hurdle so he knows how to win one of these graded races. If he runs he will run well. Harry is riding North Hill Harvey because he’s fresher and was always coming to this race, whereas Ch’tibello is running because the ground looked like it would be right for him.