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About Dan:

Dan has worked with horses for his whole life and spent nine years as Assistant Trainer to Champion National Hunt Trainer Paul Nicholls. With that invaluable experience under his belt, he has embarked on his own training career and now has almost 200 winners under his belt, including Willow’s Saviour’s memorable victory in the 2013 Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot. Dan will be providing a unique insight into his horses and their chances exclusively for Coral.

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Skelton’s National pick “a class horse that’s been given a real chance by the handicapper”

Saturday

Long House Hall was second in The Coral Cup and I think he’ll suit the step up to three miles. He’s a fresh horse as although he ran at Cheltenham he didn’t run before then; it’s competitive but I think a race like this is within his grasp. I’ve entered him the Grade 1 at Punchestown just in case, but long term we have the Galway Plate as a target for him. Superb Story will also go to Galway

I have had Galway on my mind for both of them for a while. Both races we are targeting are worth a lot of money and both horses want good ground; it’s always pretty decent ground there at that time of year. You have to go there with proper 140+ rated horses to have a chance, you can’t go there with something sneaking in at the bottom of the weights and expect to get away with it… you won’t. We took Stephanie Frances last year and she looked like she was going to win coming down the hill, and just got outclassed by a few once she turned in.

Socially this job is hard on the family and you have to go away a lot of the time. Theoretically in July you wouldn’t expect to be away much and yet here I am planning three days away in Galway. I’m also planning to run a few in France, I’ve also got a few pencilled in for other international tracks, a race in Sweden in June at Merano in September too.

Some international race conditions are more suitable for our horses than the UK race conditions. In the UK the race programme is all about creating equal opportunities with the handicap system, whereas in Ireland there are more races for winning horses, such as races for winners of one and winners of two. In France weight is based on prize money not handicap ratings. In England the system is very quick to try and get a good horse beat.

Master Jake in the last is not without a chance, but it is a big step up for him. He’s very consistent, and he’s another who didn’t run well when our horses were out of form. Bridget gets on well with him and he’ll love the ground.

Many_Clouds_alt

Many Clouds has to be on everybody’s list but after that it is really, really open. I think when they cross the Melling Road for the second time there will still be at least twelve still in contention, and by the line there will be four or five that pull clear. Holywell is not without a chance on the ground. Sir Des Champs a class horse that’s been given a real chance by the handicapper. Saint Are a couple of years ago couldn’t win of 128 and now he’s a 140+ horse, and I think he’ll come into it. I’ve been very impressed with The Last Samuri too. My three against the field will be Many Clouds, The Last Samuri and Saint Are.

The Grand National is great fun. I love watching it, being a part of it and feeling proud about it. I want it to continue to do well. All this talk about how we should get previous winners, or winners of trials into the race is absolute nonsense. Whether it’s Pineau De Re or whichever horse, if they’re not high enough rated to get in the race, they shouldn’t run in the race. It’s as simple as that. Yes of course in theory it would be nice to see the previous winners come back and run again, but they had their day in the sun, and if they’re not as good as they were then they won’t get in. I also find this whole thing with framing the weights specifically for the Grand National is wrong too. I’d chuck it out. It’s a handicap, just let the horses run off their handicap marks.

I’d love to train the winner of the Grand National. I remember when we won it with Neptune Collonges when I was at Paul’s, and the level of public interest in the winner was extraordinary. It’s completely different to any other big race. It’s amazing how the public take to a Grand National winner. They treat them like warrior heroes. I have plenty of horses that might end up National horses but you don’t really make a horse into a National horse, they end up one.

Sunday

At Market Rasen on Sunday, Closest Friend runs in the 2.15 and would have a chance if they got no rain. Minella Experience has a chance in the 2.45 as going right handed will suit him better. Crockery can go well in her first handicap at 4.30. Sierra Oscar is a horse we like a lot but this 5.30 is a seriously good race. It’s a good bumper so we hope we run well.

At Ffos Las, Air Glider runs in the 3.05. He has got to find some form, but it is a seller. He’s been struggling for form but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could pop up. Wilton Milan would have been third last time but he fell. The ground should suit him and he could run well in the 3.40. Rock Of Leon runs in the 4.15 but he is badly handicapped, and struggling for form at the moment.