My Drogo took his winning run to four with a most convincing performance in the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.
Connections of the Dan Skelton-trained six-year-old decided to miss Cheltenham and it proved a wise move, with My Drogo powering home under Harry Skelton.
Pulling away in the closing stages, the 5-4 favourite crossed the line nine and a half lengths clear of Minella Drama, ridden by Skelton’s title rival Brian Hughes. Guard Your Dreams was half a length away in third. The first three were well ahead of Ballyadam in fourth.
My Drogo was held up towards the rear in the early stages as Llandinabo Lad made the running from Striking A Pose.
There was drama at the fourth-last flight, just as the race was warming up, with Lucky One and Striking A Pose both coming down.
Skelton managed to miss all that as he started to ask My Drogo for an effort – and it was plain sailing from there as the son of Milan opened his Grade One account in some style.
Both Harry Cobden and Jonjo O’Neill junior were thankfully on their feet after the spill, but Cobden was subsequently stood down for the day, meaning he missed the ride on Give Me A Copper in the Grand National.
Of the exciting winner, Dan Skelton said: “It’s a little bit of a relief. I felt coming here it was nearly his race to lose given the prep he’d had, missing Cheltenham – it’s such an advantage here.
“We’d always planned to come straight here. To give away a penalty at Kelso, and that form has stood up, gave an indication of what was possible.
“It’s very exciting to be involved with a horse like him, he’s got it all. The plan was always to go chasing next year, despite the lure of better hurdles. Given his breeding, size and the way he jumps it’s now or never if we want to make him a top-class chaser.
“For a moment today I was worried we’d run him in the wrong race given how well he was going, but I always felt he’d get two and a half miles.
“We want to make him a staying chaser – next year he’ll start over shorter, but ultimately he’ll be a staying chaser.”
He added: “He’s going 100 per cent over fences. We’ll start him off over two miles in the autumn somewhere and build up in trip.
“I don’t think we’ll go further than two and a half miles next year. Then ultimately plot a career this time next year for him because his novice chase year is important. We’ve got to get through that prosperously and then look at the future.
“He’s a very exciting horse.”