• Biography

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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Stable Talk: He loves the mud flying and loves Haydock. There will be no exuses

The past seven days

Looking back at last weekend, I’m happy enough with how it went. I was a bit disappointed not to have run Mister Miyagi due to the ground. But I was happy with all our runners, they all went nicely at Cheltenham, and we had winners elsewhere. So it’s going well.

It was a great run by Superb Story in the Greatwood Hurdle only his second start for us. We fancied him, he hadn’t missed a beat in the build-up, he was still travelling turning in, up the inner, winged the last, and one horse, Old Guard, was just too good for us on the day. And Paul is talking about the Champion Hurdle for that horse so that shows what a good run it was. I’m now going to leave him off for a bit, and he’ll next be seen at Taunton in February and then he’ll go straight for the County Hurdle. He’s still only four going on five and that’s often a hard year for jumpers, so we’re looking after him.

SUPERB STORY at Doncaster 18-2-15.

During the week I won an appeal against penalties we received for David England weighing in light on Arthamint at Lingfield earlier in the month. Under the rules it is written that if a rider weighs in under or over a certain threshold they will get disqualified without appeal. So the race had gone. However there were extenuating circumstances for why David had weighed in light, as he’d been on the horse for half an hour. He had to go down to the post early, there was then a delay because a horse got loose, and Arthamint was basically playing up for half an hour which caused David to sweat out 1.2lbs. If he’d only sweated out a 1lb there wouldn’t have been an issue. Of course there’s a strict liability in these cases but we felt that losing the race was enough of a penalty, as there was no suggestion of any wrong doing.

We’d done nothing wrong, it was just one of those things, so we were always confident we’d get off the fine. But I didn’t go down to the appeal to get my £750 back, I went down because the public impression and appearance of someone losing a race and getting a fine, implies some form of wrongdoing, which was not the case in this instance. I felt it was important for us publicly to be cleared of any wrongdoing and we achieved that.

This week we decided to give Blue Heron the season off. He was a great horse for us last year including winning the Kingwell. We got him in a bit late and things didn’t go smoothly. We sent him to Newmarket for a body-scan and there were no physical issues at all. It looks as if he just hadn’t got over a tough season. There was a chance we could have got him ready for January or February, but where does that leave you with a novice chaser. We could have gone back over hurdles but it would be tough to try and make your seasonal debut in races like the Kingwell against race-fit quality rivals. So with the owners, we have made the mature decision to give him the season off, and get him ready for next autumn. He’s a lightly raced seven year old with his career ahead of him, we had to do the same thing with Willow’s Saviour and that has worked well. Blue Heron has had four months training until now, so it’s not as if he’s been in a field getting fat or anything, and so he’ll now have a break and hopefully he will come back as good as ever next term.

This weekend

Dan Skelton

12.00pm Huntingdon – Crockery

She’s very tough. How she didn’t win a point to point I don’t know. She wasn’t the best of jumpers in them. She ran a nice race in a bumper the other day. This is not a bad race, but given her toughness and ability I’d be disappointed if she was out of the frame. The lady who owns and bred her, Sue Welch, was one of my first owners when I had showjumpers.

12.30 Huntingdon – Istimraar

He does actually jump very well, and I jumped him again this morning just so that I was happy with where he was at. The race has cut up a bit. On his first run he didn’t stay, and on his second he had to give away 20lbs, so that was a good run as well. I think getting his age allowance in this race gives him a fair squeak. However it’s a handicap and they’ve all got their chance.

1.05pm Huntingdon – Bilzic

Bilzic is a very nice horse. We like him a lot. He’s out of a cross country winning mare and will be a chaser in time. He’s had two good starts in bumpers and starts now over hurdles in a race that’s OK without being exceptional. We’re very hopeful that he’ll continue to show decent form.

1.40pm Huntingdon – Abricot de L’Oasis

I run Abricot de l’ Oasis with Gina Andrews on board. Obviously Bridget would have been riding but she is still recovering from her fall. She was round the yard yesterday and is in good form but is still waiting for the all clear. You wouldn’t know there was anything wrong and she says she feels well so the signs are good and hopefully she’ll be back soon. So her sister, Gina, is riding Abricot, and she needs no introduction having been lady amateur champion twice. The horse won well last time but the handicapper hasn’t missed that. That said I think he has a fair chance in this race.

3.15pm Ascot – Workbench

Workbench has been putting up career best efforts the last twice which is good to see. He’s got a nice weight in this but it’s very competitive mind. Cold March looked good on his last start, Fago had an excellent run at Wetherby, Dresden is on the improve, so it’s a very thick race. So mine has been putting up career-bests but is going up to career-high marks. There is no reason why he won’t put his best foot forward again but this is probably the toughest looking two mile handicap we’ve had this year.

3.50pm Ascot – Tipperairy

Tipperairy is a lovely horse by Flemensfirth who is a sire we really like. He’s a real big baby though. He’ll be wiser and better and everything else for the run. He’s done plenty of work, been to the grass four or five times, goes on the soft ground. So know excuses fitness and preparation wise, but he is a baby so it would be wrong of me to say he’ll go and win as he doesn’t need that pressure on him at this stage of his career. He will make a nice horse.

1.50pm Haydock – Fou Et Sage

Fou Et Sage. I’ve put a tongue strap on him. He didn’t make any noise at Cheltenham but I think it’s worth a try. When he came down the hill at Cheltenham he was travelling well, not necessarily like he was going to win because there were others travelling well, but travelling like he was going to be there at the finish. He jumped the second last and then just cantered home in his own time. That was very odd as it was not what he did in France. Yes, Cheltenham is a very different track to Auteuil, and the ground was good not soft, but if you were in the stand that day you’d have said either he did’nt stay or he might have struggled with his breathing. So I’m putting the tongue tie on just in case it’s the latter. So Haydock will be more like the track that he’s used to and more like the ground that he’s used to, so we need to see an improvement.

2.25pm Haydock – Baradari

This has been the plan for Baradari. He hasn’t missed day’s work, he’s done everything we’ve asked of him and he’s fully prepared. After that the rest is up to him really. Do we think there is improvement in him, is there improvement off that mark, that’s the big question. He’s only 2lbs higher than his last winning mark so I’m not negative about his mark at all, in fact I’m quite positive. And those horses in their second season hurdling can often find it tough, so this season he may be older and stronger again.

3.35pm Haydock – Toby Lerone

Toby Lerone has a good chance in the last. Loves the mud flying, loves Haydock, stays well, had a win last time over hurdles to get ready for a chase, there’ll be no real excuses for him today.

All the best