Leading trainer Dan Skelton provides the inside track on his exciting team ahead of the 2020-21 jumps season.
Ladbrokes ambassador Dan Skelton has high hopes for the team he has to go to war with during the 2020-21 jumps season which includes Allmankind, Oldgrangewood and Blaklion. The Alcester handler also has an abundance of exciting youngsters in his yard.
“The priority again this season is to continue to improve the quality of the string.” Skelton told Ladbrokes.
That means a lot fewer summer-type horses as, during the season, we had over 200 winners, and we had nearly 1,000 runners. You can’t underestimate the pressure that places on the team to achieve those figures.
“So, we have taken the route down quality street because that is what the owners want, it’s better for the staff because we are not doing quite so many miles in the lorries and my jockey will last a bit longer. I think that is better for everyone.
“We have a definitive plan to try to maximise the best return from the horses for our owners, and that suits everybody.
“The stables are full again, but we are keeping an eye on the youngsters that need to progress at a slightly slower rate because they are bigger, stronger, better than those we were buying three or four years ago. They require more time and patience and if we can do that, hopefully we will reap the rewards.”
Here's what Skelton has to say about his exciting team.
ACROSS THE LINE
He ran really well at Bangor, where he probably needed the run. I liked him as a bumper horse. As soon as we have some more rain he will be out and running.
Skelton beleives Allmankind wasn't at his best in the Triumph Hurdle
Last season he was a brilliant juvenile for us, winning the Finale Hurdle. In the Triumph - I’m not saying we’d have won because Goshen looked incredible that day until he was unlucky at the last - but he wasn’t his usual fiery self.
Whether it was because he was coming to the end of a long season, as he had been running on the Flat, I think he is better than the result showed.
This season is going to be hard for him, as it always is for four to five-year-olds, but hopefully he can start at Cheltenham in the four-year-old only contest, and then we can pick and choose our venues. It’s great to have a Grade One winner on the team.
He did well last season, but we felt perhaps we could have won some more races. We decided to run him in some of the better ones and after winning first time at Chepstow, beating Lisnagar Oscar, he then bumped into Sam Spinner, went to a Grade Two race at Newbury and was second in the Towton.
He’s kept really good company without winning another one. I am trying to have him ready for a valuable handicap at Ascot and we will plan the season from there.
AUX PTITS SOINS
It’s good to have him back as he is a high-class horse on his day. We just need to get a bit of luck and find him a race or two. On his work at home, I still think he can be competitive.
He was only beaten four lengths in a Grade One at Punchestown the last time we ran him which was a hell of a good run. We will get started when he’s ready and plan from there.
The handicapper has got him at the moment. He wants a flat track and a bit of okay ground. Two and a half miles is fine, he just needs to come down to a winnable mark.
He won a nice race at Newbury for us last year at the Ladbrokes meeting. He probably doesn’t quite get three miles. I fancied him in the Rowland Meyrick, he looked like he was going to win but didn’t really get the trip.
We have our eye on the Grand Sefton if we feel it’s right, otherwise he would go back to Newbury for the race he won last year.
BLACK SAM BELLA
She is a highly-rated mare who has had her problems. We need to get her back to the track and see how she gets on before we try to make fancy plans.
I have been doing loads of work with him. He will go for the Charlie Hall and then we will see where we stand. He’s as well as I think he can be, but I never saw him when he was a seven-year-old so have nothing to compare him with. He looks happy and healthy to me.
He’s been a very good horse for us, always winning his race. I was very frustrated not to be able to run him last spring as the Topham had been his big target. We are going to start him in the Listed handicap at Wetherby, the day before the Charlie Hall, which he won two years ago off a 10lb lower mark. We will try to get him to the Topham next spring.
He has been ready for quite a while and will run as soon as it rains. I’ve entered him in a number of races but haven’t be able to run. If we can find a two mile novice or maiden hurdle with a bit of good to soft ground he is going to be hard to beat. He looks an improved horse and had good bumper form last season without winning. He should take a high order as a novice hurdler.
He has been second in a number of graded races before getting his head in front in the Grimthorpe to give his owners Mike and Eileen Newbould a great day. He looked quite authoritative that day. I don’t think he quite got the full distance of the Classic Chase at Warwick, although he was ridden quite positively. This season similar races await him such as the Rowland Meyrick, Classic Chase again and perhaps the Midlands National. Hopefully we can win one.
He was best at the weights in the International Hurdle. It was very frustrating because we had a plan to aim for that but bumped into Ballyandy and Call Me Lord, giving them 4lb. He’s been a great horse for us and I don’t think he is getting any less of one. He looks fantastic at home. We will start at Aintree on November 7.
COBRA DE MAI
He has struggled against the handicapper since he won at Cheltenham last April but I do believe we Are somewhere near back to an optimistic mark. He ran the other day at Fontwell but he wants a bit of nice ground, three miles and a chance off the handicapper.
She won’t be back until later in the season. She won a Grade Two over hurdles last term which was a good effort. She is a very consistent mare who tries very hard. I think she will be a real asset in mares chases.
He obviously blew up at Uttoxeter the other day, which took me by surprise. I thought he was straighter than that, but he got beat first time last year. I am very happy with how he has come out of that so hopefully he can go to Cheltenham for a maiden hurdle. I would like to think he can be threatening wherever he goes next.
FLASH THE STEEL
He produced a really good run the other day. He just bumped into a really progressive horse. He is 8lb higher than he was the year before, and has now run in two Silver Trophys, winning one and being second in the other beaten a length and a half. His best runs have been fresh, but he now has to win off career high marks, which is a hard gig. He hasn’t been over fences yet and we could give that a go.
He has been remarkable, winning 11 times. He has come a long way from being an unruly kid and has kept improving. He’s now on 145 and is going to run at Cheltenham over two miles. It will be his first go at a track like that. On good ground on a track like Doncaster he would be a threat to anyone but we might have to get a little adventurous this season due to his mark.
I’D BETTER GO NOW
He won at Perth the other day. He stays three miles really well and is perhaps improving. He goes to Cheltenham this week for a Pertemps qualifier where he shouldn’t have too much weight. He will go chasing some time.
He was controversially reassessed after running behind Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux at Ascot. I hope the handicapper isn’t going to make him pay for that for too long. We accept that we got a bit of prize-money and he had to go up a bit, but we all thought it was too strong.
He needs to be dropped pretty quickly. They put him up to 154, he’s already down to 147, he last won off 134. We are still a stone higher than our last winning mark. We are going to run him in the Haldon Gold Cup, then the Ladbrokes meeting at Newbury, the Castleford Chase etc and hopefully we’ll have another day.
He put in a good run at Uttoxeter the other day and looks a good horse. He stays well, relaxes during his races and comes home strongly. I’ve always wanted to get a run in before the November meeting at Cheltenham if he’s up to that so he’s going there Friday for a novice hurdle. I do like this horse a lot.
He has been a great horse for us. He has won two high class handicap hurdles and we would love to add another one. He may be ready for a step up in trip. I fancied him at the Festival, where he travelled really well but he looked like he lacked a gear late on.
He ran at Uttoxeter and was a little fresh. He won three novice hurdles last term but was always going to be a better chaser. I actually think he can make a very good novice chaser and will leave the Uttoxeter race behind.
NOT THAT FUISSE
He was really good at Perth. He heads to Cheltenham for a novice chase. That will be a step up in grade and will tell us a lot more and where we should aim.
He is probably not going to be back until the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas. He is a horse who thrives on those speedier tracks. He just got beat in the Henry VIII last year when it got too soft. He would have been hard to beat on better ground.
He’s all about speed. He’s got stronger and as he gets a little older, he will stay even better. There are plenty of reasons for optimism that he could still be improving.
He has been a very good horse for us and I am delighted with how things have gone. He has trained well and looks great but has to deal with a career high mark this season. We will start at Aintree in the Old Roan and we will take it from there.
He won two for us last year, at Newbury at the Ladbrokes meeting and then he won on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham. I hope this season he can compete in the top handicaps or if he wins the Old Roan, the top graded contests!
He’s a great horse to have because he can maintain his form to a high level.
He ran well at Perth and will improve for that. The only negative is that he hadn’t run for a long time so we don’t want him ‘bouncing’. He looks great. He was second to a good horse at Newbury and hopefully he can progress.
He ran really well last week. Perhaps he will need a little step up in trip as he stayed so well on the Flat. We will try to find another race in a month or so and go from there.
He did really well last year, winning a Listed hurdle on New Year’s Day, which was taken off him then reassigned to him. He ran in the Coral Cup after that where there was no pace on, and he wants a strong gallop. Over fences he will be a different proposition.
You can be aggressive with him. He’s older, stronger, better and as a chaser he should be taking real high rank.
She is as good a mare as there is in the UK. It was hard for her last season because she had to carry a penalty. I feel that’s what got her beat at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. It was a very good run against Somerville Boy.
This season she doesn’t have to carry that penalty so will hopefully be hard to beat wherever she goes. I am trying to get her ready for the West Yorkshire Hurdle. If the ground’s not right, we will have to go somewhere else.
Last season we didn’t go overboard with him. We ran him in some nice races but always knew he was going to be a better chaser. I am loath to predict where we go next because of the ground. I want to make sure everything is right. He looks graded class and one day will step up to three miles.
I thought he was going to have his day at Cheltenham in December and he just ran out of steam, finishing second. He’s only won once over fences, but he carries high class form.
I don’t think there is any reason to stray from the norm with him. He will be in all the two and a half mile races and I am looking forward to running him in the Topham one day.
THIRD TIME LUCKI
He was the highest placed British horse in the Festival Bumper. He’s been a great bumper horse and now needs to build on that over hurdles. He was good at Uttoxeter the other day, but he should have been. He’s hopefully going to Cheltenham in November.
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