Dan Skelton’s Dominating Presence at The November Meeting in Cheltenham
The anticipation is building as Dan Skelton prepares his formidable team for The November Meeting at Cheltenham this weekend. With Nube Negra aiming for a remarkable third consecutive victory in Sunday’s Shloer Chase, the Skelton stable exudes confidence. Unexpected Party leads the favorites list for Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, while Knickerbocker Glory and L’Eau Du Sud are well-fancied contenders for Sunday’s Unibet Greatwood Hurdle.
This time last year marked a turning point in Skelton’s campaign, with multiple triumphs including wins in the West Yorkshire Hurdle, Shloer Chase, Betfair Chase, Coral Gold Cup, and Becher Chase. This established him as one of the most successful yards during that period of time. However, this season has been slower to gain momentum and Skleton hopes it ignites this weekend.
Speaking at a press conference organized by Jockey Club Racecourses, Skleton expressed his thoughts on this season: “Last year was exceptional; everything fell into place effortlessly. I must admit that it hasn’t been quite like that so far this season,” he candidly shared.
Challenging ground conditions have posed obstacles to success thus far. While their horses have maintained fitness levels suitable for good-to-soft terrain during autumn races up until now they had struggled on heavy ground fit courses. Some horses reached the second last hurdle weary and needing an extra run to regain full form which impacted performance results significantly.
Skelton continued, “Every day brings us closer to where we want to be. As we approach this weekend, Unexpected Party is primed and ready, L’Eau Du Sud is fully prepared, Nube Negra’s sights have always been set on the Shloer Chase, and Knickerbocker Glory has already tasted victory this year.”
Optimism fills Skelton’s voice as he admits that there are no excuses now. Although it may be too much to hope for a repeat of last year’s extraordinary run of success, he believes smoother sailing lies ahead.
One horse that Skelton holds dear in his heart is Shan Blue. Two years ago during the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, victory seemed within reach until a devastating fall shattered their hopes. Since then, Shan Blue has struggled to recapture that form in three subsequent runs and will now reappear over hurdles.
“Shan Blue will grace the hurdles once again,” stated an emotional Skelton. “Since his unfortunate tumble at Wetherby things haven’t fallen into place for him like they did before. He did manage a commendable second-place finish at Aintree that spring which was encouraging but fell short of what we envisioned after Wetherby.” Skleton added with conviction: “I don’t want to jump the gun here but I can confidently say I’ve never seen him better at home. We had him entered in Market Rasen and Bangor tomorrow but both were called off due to adverse weather conditions; thus our options were limited leading us back towards hurdles racing.”
In regards to the coveted feature race which has eluded Skelton so far despite coming close last year with Midnight River securing third place and Protektorat finishing second twelve months earlier before becoming Grade One winners themselves- Unexpected Party received a boost from Knappers Hill’s impressive performance at Wincanton. Knappers Hill, who finished second to Unexpected Party at Chepstow, showcased undeniable potential.
While Skelton acknowledges the comfort this brings, he remains cautious: “Naturally, it’s reassuring but in reality, it may be deceptive as nothing extraordinary occurred beyond expectations on that day. Nevertheless, it is a positive development,” Skelton commented with a hint of skepticism. He humbly adds: “I don’t expect him to skyrocket to the top of the betting market or anything like that; however, his track record suggests that he has all the right attributes for success.”