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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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StableTalk: In France these were his perfect conditions – left handed, flat track, heavy ground. He’s got something to find, but he’s in good form

I was a little bit disappointed with Born Survivor last weekend. I watched it a couple of times again during the week and it looked to me like he couldn’t get out of the ground. He’s just turned five and when a horse goes hard out in front as it did on Saturday it’s going to make it really hard work for a baby, so that’s just how it ended up. Yes, it was a bit disappointing but at the end of the day he is still a very nice horse. Now, we’ll get him right, give him a couple of runs in the spring and then go chasing next year.

Horse Racing - Bangor-On-Dee Racecourse

What A Good Night wasn’t travelling too badly but then he came to the ditch and two horses fell in front of him, hampered him, and the race got away from him so that was effectively it for him. We will find another race for him in the not too distant future. We tried something adventurous and ultimately it didn’t pay off.

I don’t know exactly who is responsible for the decision to re-open Hereford, but I just want to say a massive well done to them. Jump racing needs as many racecourses as possible providing opportunities. It’s been an exceptionally challenging period recently with the bad weather but it shows how important it is to have a wide variety of racecourses spread around to keep as much racing on as possible during the winter months, particularly when jump racecourse surfaces can only take so much racing.

Yes Channel 4 Racing hasn’t made many visits to Hereford but a lot of very good horses received their grounding there, and I’m sure that will be the case going forward. I went there a lot when I worked for Paul and it was a really nice track especially for novices. They always staged loads of maiden and novice hurdles. I will definitely have plenty of runners there when it’s back up and running. In real terms it’s not far for us to get to at all; no more than an hour which is fantastic

1.50 Ascot – Fairytale Theatre

FAIRYTALE THEATRE at Warwick 7-2-15.

Fairytale Theatre has a lot on her plate here. She put up a brave show last time, I was very proud of her. She has a lot to find with quite a few of these though, Vroum Vroum Mag in particular. She will like the ground, the trip’s fine and she tries hard, so we’ll give it a go. It’s a deep race.

2.25 Ascot – Value At Risk

Fairyhouse Races

We are going back over hurdles with Value At Risk. It’s just not really happened for him over fences which is disappointing as we had high hopes for him novice chasing this season. It’s not the end of the world and we’ll go back to that a later date. We gave him a World Hurdle entry earlier in the week but he’s got to get through this race before we start thinking of that. He’s in great form at home and he’s been ready to go for so long that we just want to get him to have a clear round tomorrow and get some form on the board. His handicap mark of 142 is very fair and we are very hopeful. He was bang behind the best novices last year, he’s right up there with them all so 142 is definitely fair.

1.35 Haydock – Its’ afreebee

He won at Haydock last time over further but it will be bad ground tomorrow which will make it a real test of stamina again. He’s in very good form at home. It’s an OK race but there’s nothing that’s prominent in the Supreme Novices Hurdle betting or anything like that. They’re all fair without probably being exceptional and Le Prezien is probably the one to beat. It’s a really tight little novice hurdle and I’m very happy with where we are, I think we have a chance.

2.40 Haydock – Fou Et Sage

Dan Skelton Stable Tour

He ran a lot better last time at Haydock. I was quite hard on him after Cheltenham to get him to where I wanted him at Haydock. I’ve left him alone since then and he’s really fresh and well. He’s got a bit to find with a couple of the principles but in France these were his perfect conditions – left handed, flat track, heavy ground. He still has to find something after his first two runs but he’s in good form.

4.20 Haydock – Baratineur

He finished second to Vintage Clouds on his penultimate start, and ran well in a handicap there last time. He’s got a 6lb pull with Vintage Clouds so there’s not much between them on the book. They look to be the ones to beat and I think we have a good chance.

3.55 Taunton – Wilton Milan

Newbury Friday

With Bridget on board we get 5lbs off and he’s in good form and ran well on bad ground at Lingfield. For some reason next time out at Haydock he never really got going and I just thought a run over hurdles would sharpen him up. He’s fresh, he seems well at home and we’ve put a pair of cheekpieces on him to help sharpen him up. It’s hard to know what to expect really, but we’ve got the 5lbs off, he’s back over hurdles, let’s see how we go.

Other than that we are just waiting on better weather and better ground for many of the horses. I see Jonjo O’Neill has had just 12 runners this year so far, and we’re in a similar position. I think many jump horses these days just don’t want heavy winter ground any more. I found that out in my first year training when we didn’t have a winner in January. A lot of these horses are bred in such a way that they are less able to perform on winter ground than they were, say a decade or two ago. So when a horse runs below par on this type of ground, it’s not that much of a surprise. If you put it into a human context, who likes working in this weather? Nobody does. I think horses are a little bit the same. So yes, we are all waiting for better ground but I don’t think that’s unique to this year, I just think more of the jump horses bred these days want better ground, and don’t want winter going. So I think increasingly you will see trainers not running their horses in January as much as they used to so that they can wait for the better ground.

Dan