Relief was the overriding emotion for Dan Skelton after seeing My Drogo get back on the winning trail in the bearrene.com Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
Having rounded off an unbeaten hurdling campaign with a Grade One victory at Aintree, the six-year-old was widely considered as one of Britain’s brightest hopes in this season’s novice chasing division.
He was a warm order to make a successful start to his career over fences at Prestbury Park last month, but knuckled on landing, slipped and fell at the second-last.
My Drogo was the 2-9 favourite to bounce back on his return to the Cotswolds – and while he was almost too brave for his own good at a couple of fences, there was no doubting his superiority as he came home with seven lengths in hand over Torn And Frayed under champion jockey Harry Skelton.
“It is a sigh of relief to get him round,” Dan Skelton admitted afterwards.
“He made a couple of what I wouldn’t call mistakes, but brave errors. The two that he didn’t get perfectly, he was a long way off them and he stays committed, which I’m happy about, because you don’t want them changing their mind.
“Harry was happy with him. We’re all relieved it’s over and we’ve got one out of the way.
“He’s hacked up in the end and he’s obviously very good.
“Visually it’s not silky, but it doesn’t have to be – it’s the result that counts.
“I know you’d love to see him being silky and smooth, but that is not in this horse’s nature. He’s a little bit of a fidget and a little bit of a horse on the edge – he’s been like that all his life.”
My Drogo could return to Cheltenham next month before the Festival in March, with Skelton keen to give his charge further experience.
He added: “Every day is a competition to him. He considers this to be a game, rather than something serious. He is going down to fences thinking ‘how far off this can we get’?
“It’s not a concern, but it is something that we’ve got to iron out and I think the way to do that is to get a few runs into him.
“We’re not afraid to run him. We’ll enter for the Dipper back here on New Year’s Day and if we don’t go for that we’ll go somewhere else.
“You wouldn’t dare going three miles and over two you’d have to be super aggressive and that would just further encourage him to take lots of chances, so we’ll stick to two-and-a-half for now.”
The Nick Williams-trained Interne De Sivola built on the promise of his hurdling debut with a clear-cut victory in the JCB Triumph Trial.
The youngster finished third behind Dan Skelton’s exciting prospect In This World at Warwick last month, form that was boosted by the success of runner-up Graystone at the same venue earlier this week.
Ridden by the trainer’s son Chester, Interne De Sivola had his rivals in trouble a long way from home on his second start and was five and a half lengths clear of 5-2 favourite Yorksea at the line.
“It was a good performance in what was a good race at Warwick and we thought he’d improve as he’d never run on the Flat,” said Williams.
“That was the strongest juvenile race of the season so far at Warwick. Good horses were beaten 30 lengths that day and the Skelton one is very good, obviously.
“He (Interne De Sivola) stays well and has a strong pedigree. He’s a very good prospect.
“We haven’t really got a plan. We said we’d see what happened today, but he’s won very well and it (Triumph Hurdle) is a possibility.”
Editeur Du Gite (3-1 joint-favourite) made it back-to-back course wins in the Simon Claisse Handicap Chase.
The seven-year-old carries the colours of trainer Gary Moore’s 2014 Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sire De Grugy – and connections are dreaming he too could earn himself a crack at the two-mile chasing crown.
Part-owner Steve Preston said: “It’s quite exhilarating to say the least.
“We weren’t as confident today as the ground was a bit deader and he had 7lb more to carry, but without a doubt we’ve improved again, which is more than you could hope for.
“Hopefully he has still more in him. The last time I spoke to Gary, we were thinking of the Game Spirit at Newbury, so he could go there before we think about bigger, bigger things.
“That (Champion Chase) is possible, but if not there’s the Grand Annual and then the Red Rum at Aintree, which he won last season.”