Dan Skelton looks back on Cheltenham and previews weekend runners at Newbury, Kelso and Ascot
Cheltenham was a bit frustrating for a lot of reasons. From our yard’s point of view we were disappointed not to get a winner but all the horses ran very well. They were all thereabouts going to two out or jumping the last.
You can’t grumble when they have done their best. The chips just didn’t quite fall our way, but that’s sport. We are not going to hang our heads, we are going to go forward.
The same can be said of the Ireland v Britain situation. We could get downbeat about it or stick our chests out and use it as a motivator to do things better. We will do that individually and collectively.
The Irish haven’t gone home patting themselves on the back believing they’ve cracked it and will dominate forever. They will be motivated to do even better. We face an uphill battle to level the playing field before we can even consider anything else.
Nobody should underestimate how difficult that is going to be and the level of change that is going to be necessary. Everyone across the industry has to get behind each other and make the sport a more sustainable, higher level product that future generations can look forward to. In its current format the sport is miles behind and not as attractive as it should be.
Harry’s championship bid is at the forefront of our minds, coupled with Aintree, Ayr, Perth and Sandown.
We are doing our best to help him. Ian Popham, his agent is doing his best. It’s going to be tight but it’s a motivator for Harry, for me and the yard. We want him to do it. It is going to be difficult as he is still behind Brian Hughes, not in front.
We are almost pinching ourselves that he is in with a chance of doing it. It’s a lifelong dream for Harry to be in this position. He is embracing that. He has a lot of people to thank for getting to this point and we don’t want those efforts to go to waste if at all possible
So we will be giving it the absolute maximum and all the owners are well behind it because they would love to see it happen as well.
This weekend we have one runner at Newbury, Marada (15:25) who Bridget [Andrews] rides. She carries some very good form into this. Because of that she is up near the top of the weights.
There are a couple in here that we haven’t seen much of that could be better weighted than her but she is consistent. She has to contend with going up in trip as well, but I think that will be fine.
She is out of a staying family, which gives us optimism. Hopefully she can prove she is one of the most consistent in the field and keep going.
Harry goes up to Kelso where we run West To The Bridge (14:05) in the 3m hurdle. He hated fences last time. Whether he can slot straight back into hurdling off a relatively high mark remains to be seen. I’ve been happy with him and the trip will definitely suit.
We have Across The Line (14:40) in the 2m handicap hurdle. The race has cut up a little. I’ve been waiting for the right race for this horse and am delighted we’ve gone here. Everything looks right for him. He is probably nicely handicapped. There are a lot of positives and it’s worth a good few quid as well so well done to Kelso. I’d have to give him a chance.
Danse Idol (15:15) runs in the Mares’ Chase. She won last time. This is more competitive but she is thriving. Her confidence is high and when mares start believing they can outrun themselves. Hopefully she has a big chance in this.
Elevenerife (15:50) runs in the bumper. I’ve done loads of work with him and I like what I’ve seen. He is a future chaser. I’d never be heard saying that I think my bumper horses will definitely win because we are not that type of yard, but he does go nicely.
We have two runners on Sunday at Ascot.
Leylak (14:45) runs in a very competitive handicap hurdle. I think this horse will improve on better ground.
Whether he can strike first time in this handicap is a different matter because it is quite deep for a juvenile handicap but I do think this horse, like Ambassador during the week, can do a bit more on better ground.
Marracudja (15:20) also runs. It’s a step up in trip, which I think he has been crying out for. We can ride him to help him get the trip.
Hopefully we have a good few chances this weekend.