The “Lifetime Race” Approaches
Protektorat, under the watchful eye of trainer Dan Skelton, is in exceptional form as he prepares to defend his title at the Betfair Chase. This prestigious Grade One event marks the start of the National Hunt season in the UK and has a rich history of multiple winners.
A Race Full of Legends
The list of legendary horses who have triumphed at Haydock’s feature event is impressive. Silviniaco Conti secured victory twice, while Cue Card and Bristol De Mai each notched up three wins. However, it was Kauto Star who truly defied expectations by clinching an incredible four victories.
Skelton knows all too well about Kauto Star’s reign as Paul Nicholls’ assistant during those memorable wins. Last year, winning with Protektorat gave him immense satisfaction as he claimed a place on this illustrious roll of honor in his own right.
Finding Unique Training Methods for Success
Prior to his reappearance at the Betfair Chase, Protektorat fell short in two subsequent runs – the Cotswold Chase and the Gold Cup. Determined not to repeat past mistakes, Skelton has left no stone unturned in ensuring that Protektorat is perfectly prepared for this crucial race.
Skelton explained how they approached training Protektorat differently from other horses: “He’s not a horse we can train on the hill… He’s predominantly on the soft sand gallop.” This unique training approach caters to Protektorat’s tendency to exert excessive effort during the early stages of his work.
Maintaining Health and Fitness
Skelton is pleased with Protektorat’s current condition: “His health and his well-being is good, his fitness is right where we want it.” The abundance of rain across the UK has also worked in their favor, as these conditions suit Protektorat.
A Race Worth Chasing
Reflecting on Kauto Star’s remarkable performances at Haydock, Skelton emphasized the significance of the Betfair Chase within jumps racing. He stated, “The Betfair Chase is one of the biggies of the year… It’s one of those lifetime races and it is very hard to get a horse good enough to run in it.”
The importance of seizing such an opportunity was not lost on Skelton: “When you get your chance, you’ve got to try and take it.” With this mindset, he aims for nothing less than success with Protektorat.
A Seasoned Competitor
Protektorat spends summers under Lisa Hales’ care (daughter of part-owner John Hales) before commencing training in July. Skelton described him as a horse that approaches his work enthusiastically but sometimes gives too much effort. However, this eagerness makes him perform exceptionally well when fresh.
Skelton admitted that towards the end of each season, Protektorat’s early exuberance can affect his performance. Despite this challenge, he highlighted that Protekorat had already secured victory in a Grade One race in April.
The Big Plan Approaches
With just over a week to go until the race, Skelton confirmed that the Betfair Chase is Protektorat’s primary target: “Our number one target is the Betfair. I’m training him for the Betfair, which is giving me confidence he’ll put up a good defense.”
While Haydock remains their main focus, Skelton did not rule out a potential Grand National campaign in the spring.