WARWICKSHIRE’s Dan Skelton is one of the country’s brightest young National Hunt trainers and ambassador of Warwick Racecourse.
In his latest column with the Observer, Dan reflects on his 50th winner of the season and his first Cheltenham Festival as a trainer in his own right.
“March was a milestone month with us sending our first runners to the Cheltenham Festival and achieving our 50th winner of the season. Another exciting breakthrough was exceeding half a million pounds in total prize money for this season.
“As far as I’m concerned, though, the only way to reflect on those feats is by looking forward.
“We were delighted to have taken good strong horses to Cheltenham and for Value At Risk and Shelford to end the Festival week with our best placing of fifth, and to get our 50th winner was great, but we need to kick on.
“Yes, our horses ran well at Cheltenham but we need to get higher up the ladder next time. And yes, 50 winners was one of our targets for this season but that’s just a number – it’s not the goal line.
“I actually think that this year’s Cheltenham was the most competitive ever. It felt like it was the most highly attended and pressurised that I can remember. It has become a very international affair and if we had won there, we would have really known that we had achieved. We’re in a good position, we’re a growing team and it will happen but we have got to work to make it happen.
“The Festival is the biggest stage in National Hunt racing and it almost feels like facing the jury with everyone watching you. We’re now looking ahead to next week’s Grand National Festival. Don’t get me wrong, Aintree is very serious but the intensity isn’t the same.
“I had three runners at the Grand National Festival last year and top of the list this time is Three Musketeers, who was my first ever winner at Warwick in January and he will be running in the opening race on Grand National Day. “Hopefully, he will be very competitive and have a good chance. All of the horses that I’m sending to Aintree this year are a lot better than the runners I had last time, but they need to be.
“We have a busy few weeks ahead as the jump racing season proper reaches its climax and that includes Warwick which has four meetings in this fixture list left to run, going out on a glamorous high with Ladies Day on Wednesday, May 20.
“Before that, we’ll be flying the Dan Skelton Racing flag at Warwick’s next meeting on Thursday, April 23, which celebrates St George’s Day and the week before that, we’ll be heading to the Scottish Grand National. My brother Harry is still the youngest jockey to ever win the Irish Grand National and it would be great if he could repeat that 2009 glory in the Scottish this year.”