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StableTalk: “We think he’s a better horse than his mark”

| 13.03.2016

2.00 Sandown – Two Taffs and Robin Of Locksley

We run two in the EBF Final, Two Taffs that Harry rides and Robin Of Locksley who will be ridden by Ian Popham. This has been the plan for both horses all season. Two Taffs bumped into some pretty nice horses in a novice hurdle around Kempton on the start before last, and we then fancied him on Boxing Day but our horses weren’t running that well at the time. He’s had a nice break since then; we were always coming here and we’re very happy with him. The trip shouldn’t be a problem, and the same goes for Robin Of Locksley. We ran him in a qualifier last time but his penalty told late on when finishing second. I think he’s improved for that run, and he wouldn’t be without a chance as well. I think they both go there with fair chances; Harry was finding it hard to pick between the two.

3.10 Sandown – Knockgraffon

We’ve been aiming at the Imperial Cup with Knockgraffon since his last run as we just thought a drop back to two miles on soft ground might suit him. He jumps and travels very well. Although he has won over two and half miles around Leicester he has got plenty of natural pace and he jumps so efficiently that it’s worth a throw of the dice in a two mile handicap. A lot of the horses that he’s up against have more experience than him but he’s got a nice weight and we think he’s a better horse than his mark. He’ll be going chasing next season whatever happens, and we can go for a normal novice with a penalty at the end of the season if we want. We just thought it was worth rolling the dice for a big one.

3.45 Sandown – Listen To The Man

Listen To The Man is a six year old and has a strength advantage on a few of these. She’s done nothing wrong in her two starts, and most recently won a bumper up at Wetherby for us first time out. That was a race she couldn’t lose really, as she went off 2/7 and there were only four runners. There are a few in the race with one run and one win, so it’s a very good bumper. Our mare should handle the ground but this is a massive step up on what she achieved last time. She could only do what she did at Wetherby given the small field.

3.30 Kelso – Meet The Legend


Meet The Legend goes up to Kelso to the rearranged fixture, so well done to Kelso and the BHA for doing that. It is a competitive heat for sure but the trip will be perfect. He’s won on the ground and he’s better going left handed than right handed so that will suit and I think he has a fair chance.

Cheltenham Plans

Tuesday, 15th March

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

We can’t even afford to have a heavy dew for Mister Miyagi now. We don’t want any more rain at all, and if it started Good to Soft, Soft in places, it would be in the balance and we’d have to walk the course. I’m walking the course on Sunday which will tell me where we’re at. His run is very much in the balance.

North Hill Harvey definitely runs. He won’t mind the ground. He won at the track just before Christmas. Yes, he has some numbers to find with the principles but over two miles he’s a very strong stayer and that will hold him in good stead.

Mares’ Hurdle

Stephanie Frances is even less likely than Mister Miyagi to run here. To get two and a half miles she’d want seriously good ground so I can see her waiting for the County Hurdle. Fairytale Theatre has a lot to find with the opposition but she does stay the trip well. There isn’t a lot else to run her in so we’ll have a crack.

Novices’ Handicap Chase


I couldn’t be happier with Willow’s Saviour, he couldn’t be better really. The ground will be perfect and two and a half miles won’t be a problem for him. We just need everything to go for him on the day. It’s as simple as that!

Wednesday, 16th March

Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

Welsh Shadow and Its’afreebee are going to run in this. The race is going to cut up because of Yanworth. Both my horses will run and should run their races. Its’afreebee is in good form and has had a break, and I also really think two and half miles is going to suit Welsh Shadow. At the start of the season we always thought Welsh Shadow was going to end up in this race. Things didn’t go his way in the Tolworth and last time he just found two miles too sharp. Both horses should give their running but they have it to do to get near Yanworth.

Coral Cup

Long House Hall would be the one for the Coral Cup probably. He fell over fences in the Autumn, and I thought I’d enter him in this race and see how it looked. It’s massively competitive of course. It will be difficult.

Fred Winter

Kasakh Noir definitely runs in this and Harry will ride, and if Ashoka gets in then Ian Popham will ride; I think we’ll be on the edge with Ashoka. Kasakh Noir has always been aimed at this race once the Triumph was ruled out and I’ve been very happy with his preparation. He won his prep race up at Market Rasen when I know he wasn’t wound up and we used that as a stepping stone. He went up 4lbs in the weights because the opposition have run so well since the race but I don’t think that’s impossible to overcome. All the horses need to overcome relative inexperience and need luck on the day.

Thursday, 17th March

JLT Novices’ Chase

Newbury Friday

Three Musketeers is in good form. You can ignore his last run as he never got going and my horses were quiet at the time but ignore that start and he won a Grade 2 the time before. I’ve got him as good as I can have him at home and we’ll find out how he fares against all these good horses, it’s as simple as that. I’m not saying he’s going to win but he’s as good as I can have him.

Ryanair Chase

Al Ferof runs in the Ryanair. I’m very happy with him. He’s doing everything he should be. We’ve kept him nice and fresh. He knows what he’s doing, he has bundles of experience, and he’s where I want him.

Dawn Run Mares’ Novices Hurdle

Girly Girl will run in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle. She has some lengths to find with a few of them, but she’s very tough, very genuine and puts her best foot forward. She won’t mind this type of race where they go a good gallop, and I think she’ll be staying on at the end. It’s possible that she’ll be staying on in a middle-of-the-field position rather than towards the head-of-the-field, but if she ran her heart of it, she could outrun her form.

Friday, 17th March

County Hurdle

Superb Story and Stephanie Frances have both been kept back for this for the better ground, so it’s just as well this race is on the Friday and not the Tuesday; hopefully it will have dried up a bit by Friday. Both horses are well and have done everything we wanted. Superb Story is fine running off the break and we deliberately didn’t run him on bad ground, so he’s fresh and ready to run.

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle


Work In Progress will run in the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle. The unknown is how he handles the undulations but at the end of the day that’s the same for a lot of horses going into Cheltenham. He’s improving and it’s as well this is on the Friday as he wants the ground to dry out a bit. It’s a very competitive race.

Grand Annual

Savello and Workbench will both run in the Grand Annual. I don’t know who will ride as it depends on the weights. I was probably flying a bit high running Savello in the Grade 1 last time. He didn’t stay the trip in bad ground and he was too fresh as well. I’d given him a few weeks off and it probably didn’t work for him; everything that could go wrong went wrong. But we probably got the gas out of him that day, so going back to a race he’s won before off a mark of just 3lbs higher it would not be beyond the realms of possibility that he ran very well.
We’ve kept Workbench fresh and this race is miles deeper than we ever thought we’d be running him in but his form suggests he should go there.

I just want to get on with it now; the build-up lasts forever, too long really, and at the end of the day the winner is the horse that runs the fastest. Every trainer gets their horses there in the best shape they can and the rest is down to which horse runs the fastest and which horses get the rub of the green too. The form is in the book and people can see that, what will be will be.

I do enjoy it. At the end of the day it’s highly competitive and there’s no disrespect if you come fifth or sixth at Cheltenham, that form would be good enough to win almost anywhere else on any other day. Then when it’s over and we wake up on Saturday, there’s no stopping. We put our foot down and go on to Aintree.




Dan Skelton

Dan has worked with horses for his whole life and spent nine years as Assistant Trainer to Champion National Hunt Trainer Paul Nicholls. With that invaluable experience under his belt, he has embarked on his own training career and now has almost 200 winners under his belt, including Willow’s Saviour’s memorable victory in the 2013 Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot. Dan will be providing a unique insight into his horses and their chances exclusively for Coral.