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Harry Skelton extends title lead with Bangor double

Harry Skelton stretched his jump jockeys’ championship lead to six ahead of Brian Hughes thanks to a double on his brother Dan’s horses at Bangor.

Dan Gun and Dog Of War struck for the Skeltons – while Hughes suffered several near misses as his title rival took his winning tally to 145.

Skelton and Hughes are set to continue trading blows throughout the last week of the season – but with just seven days to go before the finale at Sandown, it is the former who has the clear upper hand, and has shortened to 1-20 favourite with the bookmakers.

Brother Dan has nonetheless warned the title is not a done deal yet, and he is expecting more twists and turns still to come in the battle royal at Ayr, Perth, Sandown and elsewhere over the coming days.

The Warwickshire trainer told Sky Sports Racing: “The worst hope is false hope – you can’t think that it’s over, because it certainly isn’t.

“Brian Hughes is definitely going to have more than five winners between now and the end of the season.

“So it’s going to be hard. There’s no time to take your foot off the gas, no time to dwell and reflect – you’ve got to keep going forward.”

He is, however, very proud of what his brother has achieved so far.

“It’s a great position for Harry to be in,” he added.

“Every jockey walks into the weighing room for the very first time and hopes one day they can be in a position to challenge for champion jockey – and he is in that position.

“It’s been an amazing rollercoaster, and I’ve always thought the final week will have a big say in it – and I think Perth (Wednesday to Friday) is going to have a massive, massive say.

“There’s no time to take in what’s going on. It’s all been flat out, but I hope we can look back on it all when we get to the end, and reflect positively.

“I’m proud of Harry. I drive the car a little bit – Tom Messenger does most of that – and I declare the horses.

“When it comes to being champion jockey, it’s a one-man thing. So he’s got to be proud of himself, and we’re all very proud of him.”

Skelton stretched his title advantage in the opening race, the first division of the Potter Group Handicap Hurdle.

Dan Gun provided him with his 144th winner before noon, on a card which got under way at 11.25 so it could be completed before the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The 13-8 favourite was delivered from off the pace and was clear at the last, beating Hughes and Rubytwo into second by six and a half lengths.

Both jockeys were unplaced in division two, and then Hughes had to settle for second again in the Maelor Handicap Chase – leading at the last on Discko Des Plages only to be run out of it by Aidan Coleman on another of the 3-1 co-favourites, Casa Tall.

Hughes’ run of near misses continued in a groundhog scenario in the Darlands Novices’ Handicap Chase, with the extra aggravation for him this time of finishing second to Skelton again.

The championship leader arrived with a telling challenge at the last once more as Dog Of War defied a minor market drift to 3-1 to beat Hughes on 2-1 favourite Armattiekan by a length and a half.

The winning jockey said: “He did it really well, and travelled well.

“Since he only ran the other day, we hadn’t done a lot with him – maybe we should have done a bit more, because he was quite fresh.

“I’ll keep rolling, keep going.”

The Skeltons were, however, then out of luck with their last runner of the day – Interconnected in the Horseradish Maiden Hurdle.

In the absence of Hughes, the long odds-on favourite appeared to have a golden opportunity to break his duck but instead fell at the last when upsides the 28-1 winner Aviewtosea.

Both horse and jockey were unscathed.

Flooded Bangor abandoned

Officials at Bangor have been forced to abandon the meeting scheduled for Sunday because of flooding.

Having lost its sole fixture last month after flood damage, with fences ruined and debris strewn across the track, Bangor’s hopes were high that this weekend’s card would be able to go ahead.

However, further heavy rain on Wednesday meant the worst hit areas of the course were once again waterlogged – and there was no option but to make an early call.

The racecourse sits next to the River Dee.

A tweet from Bangor’s Twitter account read: “Unfortunately we experienced significant flood damage to the track and fences during January, these areas are now waterlogged following further rain today. Therefore, our meeting this Sunday 14 March has been abandoned.”

There is also a doubt over Carlisle’s meeting on Thursday, with a late precautionary inspection called for 7am.

By 5.30pm on Wednesday 12 millimetres of rain had fallen, with the possibility of another eight to come.

The going is heavy on the chase course and soft on the hurdle course.

Hurdle races abandoned at Sandown on Saturday

Sandown will stage an all-chase card on Saturday after the four scheduled hurdle races were abandoned following an inspection of the course on Wednesday afternoon.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper warned at the start of the week that races over the smaller obstacles were under threat due to the recent heavy rainfall.

And while the hurdle track did survive a first inspection on Tuesday, a further check was initially called for Thursday before being brought forward following rain on Wednesday morning.

Ultimately, officials had no option but to call off the four races, including the Contenders Hurdle, which is a recognised trial for the Champion Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

A post on Sandown’s Twitter feed read: “Following this afternoon’s inspection, the Hurdles course is not raceable due to waterlogging and false ground. All hurdles races will be abandoned and @VirginBet Day this Saturday will be an all-chase card beginning at 1.15pm.

“No further inspection is planned at this stage.”

The British Horseracing Authority had already made contingency plans to add two further chases to make a six-race card.

The meeting features the Grade One Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, as well as the Grade Two Cotswold Chase, which was saved from last Saturday’s abandoned meeting at Cheltenham.

Conversely, Wetherby’s fixture could be confined to hurdle contests with the chase track due to be inspected at 8am on Friday.

There three races planned over fences, including the Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase, but the BHA has programmed a provisional all-hurdle card in case the course is not fit for action.

The track is already staging the rescheduled Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle, so two additional hurdle races would be added to create a seven-race card culminating with the scheduled bumper.

Declarations for the existing card will be taken at the usual 48-hour stage on Thursday, with entries for the two additional races closing at noon and declaring at the 24-hour stage on Friday.

Thursday’s meeting at Down Royal is subject to a precautionary inspection at 7.30am, while officials at Chepstow have called an inspection for 4pm on Thursday ahead of Friday’s fixture.

The meeting at Bangor on Friday week has already been abandoned due to damage caused by Storm Christoph.

The storm, which hit last week, brought an immense amount of water into the area and the course sits next to the River Dee.

As the river burst its banks, the infrastructure around the course suffered severe damage, so much so that the meeting next week will come too soon while the repairs are being carried out.

A tweet from the course read: “Due to significant damage from flooding caused by Storm Christoph, we have unfortunately had to abandon our fixture at Bangor-on-Dee next Friday 12th February.”

Bangor beaten by the weather

Sunday’s National Hunt meeting at Bangor has been abandoned due to a waterlogged track.

The going was already heavy at the Welsh venue following substantial rain throughout the week.

Further rain overnight caused the nearby river Dee to burst its banks, flooding the track and leaving course officials with no option but to call the meeting off.

A statement on www.bangorondeeraces.co.uk read: “Unfortunately due to recent rainfall and rising river levels resulting in waterlogging of the track, racing has been abandoned.”

The next meeting is scheduled for January 14.