Dan Skelton trained two winners at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, adding to his previous four triumphs. It was his best performance yet at the Festival, proving that the Warwickshire-based trainer can mix it with the top competitors in the field. Looking at the early advice for Cheltenham 2024, the usual suspects will be in play for the Gold Cup, none more so than the defending champion Galopin Des Champs. However, given his progress at the 2023 Festival, Skelton could be out to contend for one or more of the major prizes.
Langer Dan was a slight outsider for the Coral Cup, but came through the field at the right time to snatch a win away from An Epic Song by a head to take the crown. It was his first major victory at Cheltenham and a notable feather in the cap of Skelton and his brother Harry in the saddle.
Langer Dan was beaten in his previous appearances at Cheltenham Festival in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. In 2021, he lost out to Galopin Des Champs in the event by a narrow margin in second place. On his return to the event, he was brought down two fences from the end of the contest.
So, Skelton banished demons with his first Festival victory in 2023 and can now push on towards the Gold Cup. Galopin Des Champs looks a pretty solid option to defend his crown for the 2024 race, while Constitution Hill could also be put forward by Nicky Henderson for the contest. It will be a difficult challenge for Langer Dan, but now that Skelton has a breakthrough, he may harbour greater ambitions.
Faivoir was a surprise winner for Skelton at the Festival in the County Handicap Hurdle, although it was the fourth time one of his horses had triumphed in the event. Fans will be curious to know what Skelton sees for the future of the horse, although he has already booked a ride in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. If he sends his horse to the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, it further highlights his ambition to press for the leading titles.
There are safer options away from the top trainers and their charges, such as the Stayers’ Hurdle. Faivoir would have to take a step up in distance to make a run at the Stayers, which is competed over three miles rather than the two that he has been accustomed. Skelton faces a big decision regarding the future of Faivoir, but he has certainly proved a point at Cheltenham and could be ready for greater things in the 2023/23 National Hunt season.