Dan Skelton discusses Cheltenham success and his weekend entries

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The whole build up to Cheltenham was so challenging because of the weather. It was a real grind and everyone was putting in double the effort.

Then as we got closer to the meeting we realised that it was actually going to be soft ground.

I had even walked the course on the Friday before Cheltenham and thought that the ground might be okay, but then the rain came Friday night and all day Saturday and that really scuppered us.

Our horses ran well over the four days when you take into consideration the ground, and then to have a winner on the Friday was so special. The fact that it was Bridget as well made it even more special.

As I said on the day, I wouldn’t have run Mohayyed if it had been up to me because of the soft ground. I didn’t think he’d like it.

All I said to Bridget was to keep the horse out of trouble and on the better ground, and maybe he’ll keep going. And he did!

It was absolutely fantastic for Bridget that she had her big day. She works so hard. And the team have had another winner at the Festival.

That’s our second Festival winner as a unit. We hope to have a lot more in the future.

We were then making preparations for having a good time that night, and hoping that our runners in the Grand Annual run well. North Hill Harvey was running brilliantly, and looked certain to at least finished second, and could have won, and cruelly he had a fatal fall.

There has been a lot of media attention on the fatalities at the Festival, particularly in that race, but I think it was one of those desperately unfortunate things.

I don’t think there was anything more to it than that. It was terribly, terribly sad. I was then in hospital with Harry until gone eleven, because he’d had a bang on the head.

That pretty much sums up what we do. We’re up one minute and down the next. That’s what you come to expect when working in racing, and you have to learn to deal with it.

You just have to stay as tight knit as possible and that’s what we did.

Saturday – Newbury

2.05 Newbury – Amore Alato

Amore Alato kicks off our weekend and is a horse that we’ve had a while now before running him. He’s got some good form. He was third in the Feltham.

We’ve had him a while now, and he seems fit. He might be a bit better right handed but I don’t think that’s a big deal.

He’s off a nice mark, and this race will allow us to find out where we stand with him and to make a plan thereafter.

2.40 – Falcon Son

It’s going to be interesting to see how he goes with a couple of extra furlongs.

He is still a maiden but if he runs well in this without winning, then he’ll go into next season as a maiden but with plenty of experience. We think the trip will suit and the handicap mark feels right.

We have nothing to lose as if he wins it’s a £40k prize but if he doesn’t then he’s still a novice for next year.

3.15 – Roksana

We have looked after Roksana since December specifically for this race.

The handicapper has kept putting her up despite staying in her box which is frustrating but that’s life. Quite how she contends with her mark we’ll find out.

We rate her very highly. She has won her last two races in good style and jumps well.  She’s got a good chance.

3.50 – Virgilio

Virgilio will go to Aintree after this and has some great form there already so we’re looking forward to it. Newbury with the two long straights is perhaps not too dissimilar a course.

The only thing is that the two and a half mile trip might be on the short side for him. He stays well so if they go hard I am sure he can put in a good run.

He’s fit and it would be nice to win a race with him as we know that off his mark that isn’t easy.

He will be our first ever runner in the Grand National which is hugely exciting for us. We’ve been building some national fences at home to get him used to them and we’ll see how he goes.

4.25 – Antunes

He’s a very nice horse that finished second on his debut.  He’s huge, nearly 17 hands, and he’s only a four-year-old. I would imagine he’s going to be a horse for next year.

When he grows into his frame a bit more you’ll see a better horse.

Sunday – Ascot

2.00 – Indirocco

Indirocco has been off with a little injury but we’re confident he can get back to his best.

He’s great pedigree, being a half-brother to Irving, should enjoy the trip and he is as fit as we can possibly get him.

We will expect him to improve. It’s only his second ever start. I’d love to see him go and run well on Sunday and then we can go from there.

2.35 – Comrade Conrad

The more the ground dries the better here for us as he seemed to get a bit stuck in the mud as they quickened up at Taunton last time.

He isn’t badly handicapped at all and the cheek pieces should sharpen him up and whilst he isn’t the most likely winner in the field I do think he can very competitive.

3.45 – Ashoka & Free Stone Hill

Ashoka ran really well last time out at Ludlow and is certainly a horse with a chance in this race.

I think they’ll go hard and that should really suit him and allow him to be really competitive.

Free Stone Hill is a horse I own myself. He ran really well last time out at Kempton to finish third but unfortunately is running out of the weights and will need to find more to do the same again.

4.55 – Sir Mangan

He ran a lot better than I expected at Uttoxeter last time out back over hurdles.

The previous two runs over fences weren’t great, as he’d had enough after three miles at Warwick, and then at Haydock he’d had enough after a mile.

But back over hurdles last week he just kept going, despite not being well enough handicapped to win. He’s showing us a bit more sparkle over hurdles.

He finished second to Beer Goggles back in the early part of the season so he’s certainly got good form. I think he’ll run okay but the handicapper probably still has him where he wants him.

You never know. He’s obviously getting closer to his peak over hurdles again.

It’s been tough few months with the weather mucking everything up. I haven’t been able to run lots of horses that I wanted to.

However it’s been a terrific season with 144 winners on the board, and April and May should be great months with the ground getting better.

It’s lovely to go to Aintree with a few chances like we will be doing and hopefully the weather will be kind to us. We’ve also then got horses which will run through the summer.

Dan

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Richard Marsh

Richard loves his sport, especially if it involves the sound of tyres screaming around a race track. He's not fussy though and his '90s Premier League nostalgia and knowledge of team nicknames is tough to match.