Charlie Hall Chase: Trainer Dan Skelton set on getting the better of old boss Paul Nicholls with Shan Blue at Wetherby
The ambitious trainer spent his formative years under the tutelage of Nicholls when the champion trainer had all-time greats like Kauto Star, Denman, Big Bucks and Master Minded.
Now Skelton has become one of Britain’s leading trainers in conjunction with his father Nick, the Olympic showjumping champion, and brother Harry who rode his 1,000th winner earlier this week.
Yet, while he respects the Nicholls-trained Cyrname, the 2020 victor, and Tom George’s Clondaw Castle, Skelton exudes confidence with Shan Blue who won the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton last Christmas.
“This is the race we’ve always been coming for,” he said. “It’s a first step out of novice company, which isn’t going to be easy.
“We’re up against Cyrname and Clondaw Castle that have been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Cyrname’s got the biggest T-shirt.
“There’ll be no ‘oh, he blew up’, none of that. He’ll tighten up for the race, and he’ll improve a fraction, of course he will – but which ones don’t? But ultimately, he’s got to run well...and he will. If he’s in Cyrname’s league, then great; if not, then we’ll have to re-plan.”
Today’s chief supporting race is the West Yorkshire Hurdle in which Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park, a former Stayers’ Hurdle, heads the field.
Yesterday’s feature on day one of the Charlie Hall meeting saw Gary Moore’s exciting prospect Porticello put down a marker by winning the Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle.
Meanwhile, Vinndication – runner-up to Cyrname in last year’s Charlie Hall – returns over fences at Ascot today for Kim Bailey.