Cheltenham Festival News

Third time lucky! Langer Dan gains long-awaited Festival win

Wed 15 Mar 2023
  Harry Skelton (blue and yellow) celebrates in his trademark style after winning the Coral Cup on Langer Dan (focusonracing.com)
Harry Skelton (blue and yellow) celebrates in his trademark style after winning the Coral Cup on Langer Dan (focusonracing.com)

Langer Dan made it third time lucky at the Cheltenham Festival when holding on for a brave success in the Coral Cup.

The big meeting has been a cruel mistress for the Dan Skelton-trained seven-year-old in the last two seasons, bumping into Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs in the 2021 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle before being brought down at the second flight when sent off favourite for the same race 12 months ago.

This year stable jockey Harry Skelton was given his chance aboard the 9-1 winner and despite having plenty to do when short of room two out, he was inspired in the saddle from the home turn.

Hitting the front halfway up the run-in, he drove his mount home with vigour to hold off An Epic Song (second) and Campround (third) in three-way tussle at the finish.

Dan Skelton said: “He is a little pocket rocket. In these handicap hurdles he can skip around and nip into gaps. I would think he is a lot of fun to ride. It is an amazing story Colm bought four foals and he was trotting around one day as a three year old and I rang Colm up saying we will have to get your money back as this horse is tiny and he will never be a racehorse.

"To be fair to Colm he said they all deserve a chance so let's see how he gets on and he has just been mega. It is brilliant seeing him get his head in front here as he is a proper tough little nut. We have had him since a foal and he is by Ocovango who is growing in importance now as we have him at the stud. He has been an amazing little horse and he has now got his day in the sun.

“He was genuinely a nightmare going into the autumn. I tried to make him into a graded horse this season and I couldn’t so we came back to handicaps and he does it for you then. I hoped he would be a Stayers’ Hurdle type horse but he just won’t go in the autumn. It is not me being clever he just won’t go. It is important we have now got one on the board.

“We have been lucky the last three years we have come here that he has been on the podium of chances that we have run here. We are lucky we have got a good more few chanced to come yet. He is a great horse to train as he puts it all in when it matters. He comes alive in the spring as he probably loses a few kilos but that was magic. He got brought down at the second in the Martin Pipe last year. You walk out disgusted but that is sport and we have got our day to today. Harry (Skelton) said I want a go on him this year as his last two runs had been in the Martin Pipe. The best thing that happened today was that they shut the door on him over two out as it meant the battle was renewed. The more hassle he gets he loves it.

“You don’t relax as you have to keep your head down and keep doing it. You look where Willie is at the top of that mountain. We are in the foothills yet we still have a team stacked full of talent. It is so hard but you have to keep aspiring to hit those heights and to get a winner is brilliant. Colm (Donlon) has been with me from the very start and it is great to give huge supporters a day like this.”

Harry Skelton said: “He’s been a bit unlucky - he was brought down last year [in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle] and bumped into Galopin Des Champs in the same race the year before. To be honest, Dan was thinking about going for it again, but I said I’ve got to have my go on him! Luckily it was the right race; what you need in that race is a bit of experience for it; he’s got that, he’s a good horse on his day and Dan has trained him to perfection. Amber Blyth, our head girl, has been fantastic with this horse. The last month hasn’t really been that smooth, but it’s credit to the team. You need people around you, you need to be able to trust people, and that’s exactly what Dan does. Colm [Donlon, owner] has been a great supporter, but that horse deserves that.

“I really thought the one to beat was JJ [Slevin, on An Epic Song], those colours have got a great record round here, so I thought that would be the one to follow. But everything just went well, and you need the horse to get you there - luckily I did.”

Martin Brassil, trainer of the runner-up An Epic Song, said: “I’m not feeling that bad to be honest, I’ve brought two horses here and to have both hit the frame is not easy. There’s lots of runners, it’s a fierce race meeting. They ran as I expected them to run, they just didn’t get the run of the green on the day.

“I was very happy with him on the way round and he came alive after jumping three. He left his hind legs behind him at the back of the third last and that might just have cost him a bit of momentum and that might’ve made the difference at the end, but overall he’s a lightly-raced horse and more rain would’ve been a help. I’d think we’ll probably run him at Punchestown now and then we’ll go chasing.

“That’s me for the week now, we’ll go back and regroup. I’ve brought two very good horses over and they’ve both run great.”

Philip Hobbs, joint-trainer of third-placed Camprond, said: "He has run a cracking race as he probably could have done without the rain has fallen. He won at Punchestown last year and we may well consider going back there later next month."

Willie Mullins, trainer of fourth home Scaramanga, said: “Very pleased with that effort on his first run over hurdles for the yard and the two options he has next are either going to Punchestown or travelling to America for Nashville's Iroquois National at Percy Warner Park in early May.

"After that there is a chance he could switch back to the Flat for Ascot Stakes at Ascot's Royal meeting in the middle of June."

Cheltenham Festival tips for Thursday:

A chance to win £50,000 with Paddy's Pick 5

How To Bet £20 on Thursday

Dave Nevison's best bets

Lydia Hislop's top tips for day three

Stayers' Hurdle: runner-by-runner guide

The Irish Angle: Johnny Ward's top tips

Placepot picks for Thursday

GOLD CUP RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE

🐴 STATS AND TRENDS FOR ALL 28 RACES

🐴 A SUPER STATISTIC FOR EVERY RACE


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