Harry Skelton seizes jockeys’ title lead with Southwell treble

Harry Skelton’s title hopes were boosted by a Southwell treble that left him two wins ahead of Brian Hughes in the jump jockeys’ championship.

Skelton was trailing his rival by one ahead of the card, but his full book of rides produced three victories while Hughes drew a blank.

Fidelio Vallis took the opening contest for Skelton and Paul Nicholls, drawing 11 lengths clear of his nearest challenger to justify a starting price of 30-100.

The second leg of Skelton’s treble was then provided by Caroline Bailey’s Just A Deal, who was a runaway winner of the second division of the Join Southwell Golf Club Handicap Hurdle after finishing second in a similar contest last time out.

The six-year-old started as 15-8 favourite and was unchallenged when cruising to a 19-length victory – providing Skelton with his 138th success of the season.

“He’s done really well,” Skelton told Sky Sports Racing.

“The last day we just bumped into one. I rode him with a bit more room today, he jumped well and stayed on really well.

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“Caroline said ‘don’t be afraid to just get him rolling, because all he does is gallop’.

“He’s fairly inexperienced, but he’s going the right way.”

Skelton and Bailey teamed up again to take the last the race on the card as Begin The Luck obliged at 5-1 and left the jockey holding a narrow lead with 11 days of the season to go.

“The support I’m getting is fantastic,” he said.

“I’m very grateful to everyone who has chipped in to help me get this far, hopefully now we can just keep pushing.

“It’s a long way to go and a lot of things can happen, but I’ve got good people around me.”

Skelton is the 1-5 favourite with both Coral and Ladbrokes to be crowned top jockey.

Elsewhere on the card, the first division of the Join Southwell Golf Club Handicap Hurdle went the way of Go Chique for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville, with the five-year-old mare passing the post three and three-quarter lengths ahead of her nearest rival to land a 15-2 success.

“She was really good,” De Boinville said.

“She won her bumper here and she’s been progressing nicely. She really appreciates top of the ground and a step up to three miles helped as well.”

William Of Orange then claimed his 10th career success when winning the On Track Off Course: racingwelfare.co.uk/podcast Handicap Chase for conditional jockey Joe Williamson and trainer Mark Walford.

The 10-year-old was triumphant at Catterick in March under the same rider and seemed to bounce back from his subsequent well-beaten effort at Sedgefield to prevail again at 15-2.

“He’s class really, he’s old enough now and he knows the ropes,” Williamson said.

“Everything possibly just happened a bit quick the last day at Sedgefield and he just got caught a bit off his speed, but there was a bit more give in the ground today which suited him and he’s done it nicely again.

“It’s great to get another winner for Mark Walford, who’s given me plenty of support this season.”

The Donate To Racing Welfare Online Maiden Hurdle then went the way of Paul Webbers Pawpaw, who was steered to a four-and-three-quarter-length success at 17-2 by Ciaran Gethings.

“He gave me a great feel, I spoke to Richie (McLernon, who rode last time) on the way here and he filled me full of confidence,” Gethings said.

“It was very smooth, really, he jumped and travelled well.”

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