StableTalk: Dan Skelton talks through his Boxing Day runners
Dan Skelton blog on Boxing Day runners
It was absolutely fantastic that my Dad picked up a trophy last Sunday at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. We knew it was going to be impossible to beat Andy Murray and once we heard the roar for Alistair Brownlee in the arena, it was always going to be tough to beat him too but I felt he had a good chance of being on the podium. It was probably his one and only chance of being up there at this prestigious awards event, and to finish third amongst so many brilliant sportsmen and women was amazing.
Behind us in the audience were Alistair Brownlee’s family, while in front of us were all the ex-winners so we were in a good spot. My Dad was absolutely delighted. David Broom won in 1960 for show jumping but that was when it was a heavily televised sport on BBC.
Onto racing over the Festive period and my intention is to go strong with my yard from Boxing Day through to the New Year and then to give them a bit of a break, give them their flu vaccinations, and then freshen them up for busy Spring period.
He wasn’t beaten far in last season’s Irish 2000 Guineas but he did lose his way a bit following that. He is jumping nicely. We are pitching him in at this deep end because he will learn a lot from this. We don’t expect him to win the race but hopefully then he can go and win a maiden hurdle next time. He will travel and jump nicely so the experience won’t be lost on him. He’s obviously a decent horse based on his three year old form but he did lose his way as a four year old. There won’t be a load of pressure on him. Jenkins is the horse with the pressure on his shoulders in the race. My horse will come on mentally from his run and then hopefully go well in his maiden second time out.
This horse hasn’t run since the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock where the ground was really soft that day. He jumps well at home and has always been thought of as a chaser. I’m looking forward to seeing his debut over fences. It’s not too big a field and I can see him running well. He just doesn’t want the ground as bad as it was at Haydock so Kempton should be perfect.
Virgilio wants three miles now. He ran really well last time out against Clan Des Obeaux where he was clearly crying out for a longer trip as he was just staying on throughout the race. The good news is that he did put the bad run at Wincanton behind him, so he is over that. He seems in good form and is going well at home. It looks a wide open content with no Thistlecrack in there.
If Frodon turns up and gets the three miles as a four-year-old, he is going to be hard to beat because he is ahead of everything else on the numbers. It is a tough task for a four-year old though. Apart from him, there is very little between the rest of them.
Originally we were targeting Churchtown Champ at this race as we thought Thistlecrack would run and scare off most other horses. However as it is, Frodon aside, Churchtown Champ has as good a chance as any in such an open race. I thought Churchtown Champ would win last time out at Southwell but I did not think he would win like he did. The form at Southwell has worked out well too which is great so he has to have an each-way chance. We will definitely know how good he is after a race like this.
With Harry choosing Virgilio, we’ve got Tom Scudamore on board. It’s great to give Tom, who is also a Coral ambassador like me, the ride on a horse owned by the Coral Champions Club. It’s worked out nicely, and Churchtown Champ is going to give the five club members, who’ve won the right to own the horse for the day, a great experience.
He surprised us all that he went on the ground at Haydock last time out but I don’t think it was a fluke. He’s been in great form at home since then. The New One has obviously been rejuvenated. Yanworth looked like he was going to move up in trip after Ascot but instead has come down, so there’s a question mark there. There has to be a question mark over My Tent or Yours as he has not been firing this season. Our horse definitely goes there with a chance because of the make up of the race.
I don’t have a runner in the King George and it is very hard to call. I have boundless respect for Thistlecrack as he looks so good. If anyone can to take the mantle off Cue Card, it will be him. That said, he has never faced a horse of Cue Card’s ability and resolution, that’s the truth. Yes, he won his World Hurdle by some distance but this is his first test against a 175 horse over hurdles or fences.
With an equal round of good jumping, I would say Thistlecrack would win but you can’t guarantee that as he is still a novice over fences and they are going to be going at some pace.
Mister Grez is just looking for some form as it has not really been there yet after having some time off. In a race of some depth, it is hard to see it coming at Kempton. He is just starting to pick up at home though so hopefully he will run tidily.
Spiritofthegames ran really well last time at Cheltenham. He is a novice running in a competitive handicap so it usually works out one way or the other. It’s a useful handicap this but hopefully he will go well. I think he has some scope with his current handicap mark and we will find out just how much.
I hope Bandsman can follow up on his win at the same track earlier this month. He has a couple of decent rivals in the race which you have to respect. He knows the place well though so fingers crossed.
This horse won three novice hurdles last year. Life is never as easy over fences as it is over hurdles though. This two and a half mile trip will suit. He actually ran quite well last time trying to match strides with the eventual winner.
He is coming down the handicap all the time so surely it is only a matter of time before he wins. You can see from his record that he doesn’t win that often but he must be getting close to a mark he can win off. We will play our hand late with him.
I think this horse has a good chance. It is a competitive little race, but the trip and track is ideal so he has to go there as one of the leading contenders to come out on top.
Fontwell and Huntingdon
He’s the old man of the yard. He was going well at Fakenham when he fell and then was third earlier this month at Market Rasen. We probably set the race up for everything else that day as he was trying to out-grind everybody but it did not work out that way. He’s won three times at the track so hopefully he can score there again.
He’s a lovely horse and definitely a chaser for the future. He jumps really well. We do like him and he’ll improve from his debut run. It’s all about the future for him.
Finally, I’d like to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.