Dan Skelton gives the lowdown on seven runners at Chepstow
New Coral Jump Racing Ambassador, Dan Skelton, is no stranger to saddling winners for Coral customers through the free to join Coral Champions Club. Now in his first column of the new season, Dan talks exclusively about his seven chances at Chepstow this weekend and reflects on his runners over the past seven days.
It gives me great pleasure to act as Coral’s Jump Racing Ambassador for the coming season. We have built up a great relationship with Coral through the exploits of their Champions Club mare, Bon Chic, who provided us with two of our 73 winners last term and I hope that through this blog I can steer you in the right direction to many more!
As for the season ahead, the team’s ambition is to train 100 winners in a season, of course, it would be amazing to reach this number in 2015/16 but if it took us a couple of seasons, it would still not be a bad thing. There are even fewer trainers who have had 100 winners than have reached the £1 million mark, which just shows us how hard it is to do both. There are 14 people who have cracked £1 Million in prize-money in a season and I want to be the 15th. If you don’t want to be number one someday in the future there is something wrong with your outlook. These are targets we set ourselves and targets are what keeps everybody focused.
The new jumps season well and truly kicks off on Saturday afternoon at Chepstow’s new two-day festival, a fixture that has in the past produced many household names. This is a wonderful initiative by the racecourse with excellent prize-money on offer and the concept should be highly commended.
So what would represent a good weekend for the yard? Well both days look very competitive so if we could somehow eke out a winner I think we’ll have done well. I don’t see how any of them should underperform. They’re all there taking their chances, they’re all fit and well but it is very competitive, it is the first big weekend of the season. We had a double on the Saturday at the corresponding fixture last season so we can do it. It’s super competitive this time but there’s no reason why they can’t all run well.
He didn’t run badly in a course bumper at Chepstow at the end of last season. I think the ground was probably a little bit too lively for him on the day. He’s a nice big chasing type of horse and he’ll get better with time but I’ve been very happy with him early this season. I don’t know too much about the opposition but I think he’ll run well and in time will make a lovely chaser.
It’s going to be difficult for her to win because Peter Bowen runs Hollies Pearl and she won a Listed Mares’ bumper at Aintree, so she’s going to be very hard to roll over. However I know there’s been improvement in my mare from last year to this year, she’ll be a much better jumper than a bumper mare and I’m looking forward to getting her started. This is just a start and I know there’ll be some days in her for sure.
He runs in the four year old hurdle and the top horse Karezak runs, so he’s a pound out of the handicap which doesn’t worry me, as he only has 10-4 on his back. He won a pretty competitive race at Fakenham last year. He was over the top on his last run last season and at the end of the day it’s a handicap, but he’s well, he’s ready and he’ll appreciate the bit of drying in the ground, it’s as competitive a four year hurdle as I’ve ever seen there.
He’s trying a new trip but goodish ground on Saturday will really help him getting it. He just looked a bit flat out at Market Rasen on his last start; he either wants a really fast two miles or a longer trip. This is always a good race, it’s worth £50,000, but I’m very happy with his preparation, so no real excuses other than he’s got to stay the trip. I do think he’ll be competitive in it but it does look like a pretty good race. He did win well at Cheltenham last spring but if you watched the race he was off the bridle a little bit early on but stayed on really well so maybe a little bit further will help him.
He makes his debut for us and I know him well having been at Paul’s (Nicholls). Two and half miles around a big galloping track looks fine. I think the ground is going to be okay for him. He seems in great form at home, we’ve done plenty with him but he’s a handicapper at the end of the day so if the handicapper has got him off a competitive mark, he should go well but it’s his first run for us so we’ll know a lot more afterwards about where we’re going with him.
5:30 Chepstow – Bilzic
I’m just going to wait and see what the ground rides like on Saturday before I make a decision on whether he runs on Sunday. If the ground is only just ‘good’ I probably won’t run him. He’s a horse I like a lot. His dam was actually a cross country winner so he will improve as he gets older and goes jumping. He’ll probably have another run in a bumper if he doesn’t run at Chepstow before he goes hurdling and that is really what his job is. He is fit and he has worked well, but if there was a proper bumper type in there he’ll be susceptible to them because he really is a chaser in the making.
He makes his debut for us. He’s been improving all the time in his work at home and we need to get to the track to see where we go. In all reality and if you look at his pedigree he’s probably really a stayer so I’d expect him to improve with time and jumps but it’s a good track for him to start and he’ll learn plenty from the experience.
The Past Week
I was happy with our runners over the past seven days. They all ran well. Apart from the winners we had two seconds on Wednesday, a third yesterday. Last Sunday was a bit frustrating though with placed horses as we had three favourites but overall they are in good form, there’s improvement in the majority of them so I’m very happy with how the week went.
Workbench – 1st Fontwell (October 2)
We were really impressed with Workbench; it was probably a career best. As he’s getting stronger and older it looks as though he’s getting a little bit faster, it doesn’t look like as though he wants a step up in trip. We’ll probably go to Cheltenham at the end of the month (Oct 24th) for a £50,000 handicap, although I noticed in the press yesterday that Sire De Grugy might go there so if he did, we might end up leaving him for Ascot on the 31st October.
Sir Mangan – 1st Fontwell (October 2)
I was absolutely delighted with him; he actually broke the track record which I can’t quite believe. I was going into the race with an open mind, to see how he ran but he showed a great attitude and I was very happy with him. It was a good performance and we’ll probably stay over hurdles with him now with the Open meeting in November a likely option.
Closest Friend – 1st Market Rasen (October 5)
Since we got him I’ve always liked him. He ran well at Stratford on his debut for us. He obviously bumped into a good one of John Fergusson’s who’s highly rated now and won another since. I thought he should win at Market Rasen and obviously with the second two in the betting acting the way they did, one jinking at the start and the other one not jumping at all early doors, it became his race to lose. He’s got a very good attitude and we’ll probably look at a handicap and see what the handicapper gives him or go in under a penalty. I wasn’t concerned by the winning margin. The handicapper will be aware that it was a false result given the way the second and third favourites behaved and at the end of the day our horses always run to the line and they do the best they can every day.
Samtu – 2nd Ludlow (October 7)
To be fair I think we all got suckered into thinking that he was a stayer because he’s so genuine. We now all think that he doesn’t stay so we’re going to come back in trip now but he’s a nice horse and there are races to be won with him.
The Week Ahead
We’ll be doing plenty of rain dances for next week’s runners! If the rain arrives we’ll have plenty of runners mid-week and could be strongly represented at both Wetherby and Worcester on Wednesday afternoon and I’ll be disappointed if we don’t come away with a winner on that day!
All the best,