Star Sports ambassador Harry Skelton looks back on an incredible day for the yard which saw six winners split evenly between the three National Hunt meetings.
Super Skelton Saturday
It was a brilliant day on Saturday. We were hoping it would go well, but you never expect to come out with six winners. We had winners at all three meetings which is a testament to the team we have at home. Days like that take a lot of organising and a lot of jockeys had winners, so it was a great day for everyone. Dan is on holiday out in the Caribbean but he was on the phone and he was obviously delighted with how it all went.
Like I said on Friday, it was disappointing for everyone that there were only two runners in the novices’ handicap chase, but ETALON jumped well and gained some more experience and confidence. We’ve always held him in high regard and who knows how much more improvement he can find. He’s lightly raced and we’ve always thought he was a chaser.
GREY DAWNING was impressive in the Hampton Novices’ Chase. The two up front went a good solid gallop the whole way, but he travelled really well in behind. He quickened up nicely and I had loads of horse under me. He’s progressing all the time and we’ll just have to see where he ends up, but we’ll definitely be looking at the big spring festivals now.
He has a slight tendency to jump out to the left. He’s always done that which is why we’ve kept him to left-handed tracks. He was unlucky at Cheltenham the last day. He made one mistake at the second last when he was really racing down to the fence – it was the first time he’d properly done that. It was a novicey mistake, but he’s learned from it and we’ve always been happy with his jumping at home. I’m not sure where he’ll go next but he’s definitely getting better and improving all the time.
The Classic Chase is always a war of attrition, but GALIA DES LITEAUX (pictured below) ran a hell of a race to finish a close second, staying on all the way to the line. She was just lugging to her left a little bit from midway down the back, which just made it hard work for me to get her running. The cheekpieces helped sharpen her up and she stayed on strongly on her first run in a handicap. It was a really strong effort off that mark, giving so much weight to the winner.
Our eyes are firmly on the Grand National now, a race that runners from the Classic Chase have a good record in. She’ll have one more run, most likely at Kelso, and then go to Aintree. The closest I’ve finished in the National is fifth, but on what I got on Saturday, she travelled well to get an early position, jumped nicely and stayed on strongly – that ticks all the right boxes for the National. She does prefer soft ground but it was probably good-to-soft at Warwick on Saturday. They’ll never let the ground get too quick in the National so that won’t be an excuse on the day. She’s an exciting mare.
MARTHA BRAE finished fourth in the Pertemps qualifier and if we get in I’m sure her owners would love a day out at the Festival with her. We’ve got a nice team of bumper horses this season andJACK BLACK ran well to be third in what is normally a very decent bumper. I like him, I think he’ll do well in the future.
FLEGMATIK (pictured below) did it well in the handicap chase, he loves Kempton. A flat track and nice ground is all he needs. Tristan [Durrell] gave him a nice ride and we said beforehand that if a gap opened, we’d take it. He’s been caught a little flat footed on occasions in the past before running on but he was very good on Saturday. I imagine we’ll back there again next month for the Coral Trophy, which he was narrowly beaten in last year. You’d like to think he’ll go back there with a fighting chance.
It was great to win back-to-back runnings of the Lanzarote. JAY JAY REILLY is much happier on a flatter track and probably over hurdles. Fences are just quite hard work for him, but he’s aways been a talented horse and Dan was always confident he would win a big race with him when everything dropped into line. It was great for Tristan to ride a big double on a day like that. He’s a really good lad, works hard and is a big part of our team. He’s taken his chances when he’s been given them and he’s a real improving jockey.
The blinkers seem to have sharpened up MOUNT TEMPEST who won the two-mile handicap chase in great style. We knew it was there and the headgear has brought the best out of him. He got a good positive ride from Fergus [Gillard] who is in with us regularly. Everything was right for the horse, two miles on soft ground is exactly what he wants.
SANTOS BLUE was back to winning ways in the handicap hurdle. He was a real improving handicapper last year and it was nice to see him get back on track with a win. Ben [Sutton], who rides him regularly, was a bit frustrated the last day at Wetherby, but he’s made amends and put it right. We think he’ll do well as a chaser – it’s onwards and upwards.
One to watch this week
CATCH HIM DERRY should go well in the last at Southwell on Wednesday (3:55pm). He’s finished third in two novice hurdles at Bangor and the step up to three miles should help. Sean O’Connor takes seven pounds off and hopefully he’ll run a nice race.
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