Dan Skelton talks Harry Skelton champion jumps jockey win and previews his runners at Sandown
With Cheltenham betting season kicking off, It’s the last day of the season at Sandown races on Saturday when, before racing starts, Harry receives his prize for winning the jump jockeys’ championship.
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It’s a phenomenal achievement for him, the realisation of a lifelong dream. It’s every young jockey’s dream. From the moment they pick up their licence, walk into the weighing room for the first time, have their first ride, that’s what they want to do.
It’s no different if you are a trainer. You hope one day to be the best. It doesn’t matter what you do in sport, you want to get to the top. It is that ambition and drive that gets you up in the morning and gets you going in the hope one day you can achieve that.
Not everybody can be champion jockey. There are a lot of great riders that never were. When you look back at the names of the jockeys that haven’t, it almost makes it more special. It’s quite remarkable really.
Harry’s Skelton dedication, drive and determination have been an outstanding factor. He rode 76 winners up to Friday through February, March and April, which is just over half his total for the whole season. He’s won it over the back end of the season.
When he rode a treble in February at Ascot, he came away thinking he had a sniff of a chance. We planned it from there, brought the summer horses forward and enjoyed a bit of luck on our side in that there has been a dry period through the end of March and April to allow us to run the better ground horses. It all came together very well.
Harry is a hugely consistent jockey. He is very determined, he’s brave and wants to give every horse the best possible chance. Like a lot of great jockeys he has been doing the right things, day in, day out. That consistency has ultimately been rewarded.
At the same time there is no point building a castle if you can’t defend it, so now it’s up to him to keep the ball rolling and try to retain his title.
We will be helping him do that. I’ve made no secret that I would love to be champion trainer one day. It would be amazing to think it could be done hand in glove with Harry one day.
We’ve had a great season. I couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone. We have made the step up to second in the table, leap-frogging Nicky Henderson, which is a big achievement for the whole team.
Our sights are now set on getting past Paul Nicholls. I am under no illusions how difficult it is going to be to beat him. We have dined at the top table for a few seasons now and we want to stay there and try to get that number one spot.
It will be hard for both of us, but we will give it a good go.
Dan’s Saturday runners at Sandown
The racing kicks off for us with two runners in the first race at Sandown. Harry rides Rockstar Ronnie (13:55) who we have had this race in mind for for a long time. He looks fantastic. He carried a big weight when just getting beaten in a decent novice last time. I think he will go very well.
The same can be said for Gylo (13:55). I wasn’t going for this race with Gylo until the eleventh hour but it is worth so much money and he is qualified that I thought we had to have a go. He won last time out, I think the track will suit him and there are no negatives with him.
We run Born Survivor in the Oaksey Chase (14:30). Realistically he can’t beat the top two on ratings. He has been a magical horse for us over the years. He will only have a couple more runs before he goes back to Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes and may go hunter chasing after this season. He should go round and finish third on ratings but if he gets anymore than that, that would be great.
We have two in the novices’ handicap chase. I don’t feel Longhouse Sale (16:50) is at all well handicapped, but the trip and ground are good for him though. Not That Fuisse has been a little bit frustrating. I felt he should have won at Ayr the other day. Running him quickly would be the only concern but he didn’t have a busy winter. The track, ground and race provide all the conditions he wants.
Embole (17:25) ran during the week at Hexham but I think this track will suit him a little better. He has no weight at all, which is why Bridget rides him.
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