Posts

Langer Dan delivers for Skelton team in Imperial Cup

Langer Dan kicked off what could be an excellent few days for Dan and Harry Skelton when cruising to victory in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown.

Once again Dan Skelton proved he is among the best at targeting the big prizes, while his brother Harry is putting up a stern challenge in his quest to be champion jockey.

With the likes of Roksana, Third Time Lucki, Shan Blue, Nube Negra and Allmankind heading to Cheltenham next week, the Skeltons could have the week of their lives and now Langer Dan is as low as 8-1 with Paddy Power for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – the closing event of the Festival.

His supporters in this race had a brief moment of worry coming out of the back straight when Harry Skelton was short of room and got shuffled to the back of the pack.

However, in a matter of strides he was soon back on the bridle and breezed around the field to challenge Miss Heritage.

By then ante-post favourite Natural History had cried enough and Langer Dan (5-1) breezed to victory by four lengths from Miss Heritage, with Mack The Man back in third.

Dan Skelton said: “I have got so much admiration for this little horse. Colm (Donlon, owner) bought him last year, as he always likes to have a juvenile.

“When he started this year, we thought he’d be one of those horses who would just have a juvenile season. But he is a credit to himself. He’s so tough and we took the pressure off him after the autumn and he has thrived.

“He’s tiny, but he has a great attitude and he’s all heart. He won a Listed race as a juvenile and we bought him as a foal and I said to Colm one day when he was trotting round as a three-year-old, ‘I think we should give you your money back, because he hasn’t grown’.

“But it is not the size of the horse, it is the size of the heart and he is all heart.

“His chances of getting in the Martin Pipe are nil, but if that nil becomes something, he’ll run. And whatever price he is, then he is what he is and his chance will be what it will be. It is hard to turn around quickly at this time of year, but given the prestige, he’ll have to have a go if he gets in.”

He added: “He is a magic little horse and he deserved it. He is tough competitor. He ran really well in last year’s Boodles and actually, funnily enough, that is our first winner over hurdles at Sandown.

“I’ve never had a winner on the hurdles track. He made a good jump two out after he had been shuffled back, which put him in a good position. He doesn’t like to be produced too soon and he needs to do as little as possible in the race. If you put him in the race too soon, he does too much.

“Maybe it is not the strongest Imperial Cup, but you can only beat what is put in front of you.

“I would like to think we will go to Aintree, but he is a horse who thrives with not having pressure. He had all that pressure last year and handled it well, but this year we have taken that pressure off him and he’s thrived because of it.

“Let’s see what the ground is like. He is only five and hopefully we have plenty of time with this horse.

“If everything is OK, we’ll run on Friday with him and we’ll consider Aintree. But at the end of the day he has won a big race today, so we will celebrate that.”

Leoncavallo heads Pipe’s bid to uphold Imperial tradition

David Pipe is double-handed in a bid to extend his family’s excellent record in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown.

His father Martin saddled six winners of the traditional feature on the Saturday before the Cheltenham Festival, while David himself has struck gold on three occasions since.

Sponsors Paddy Power are this year offering a £50,000 bonus if the winner can follow up in any race at Cheltenham next week, a double which has been achieved on just three occasions since the incentive has been up for grabs – and all by horses trained at the Pipes’ Pond House yard.

Pipe senior saddled Olympian to win the Imperial Cup-Coral Cup double in 1993, while five years later Blowing Wind followed up success at Sandown with victory in the County Hurdle.

Blowing Wind and Tony McCoy after winning at Cheltenham
Blowing Wind and Tony McCoy after winning at Cheltenham (Barry Batchelor/PA)

Gaspara landed the bonus pot for David Pipe in 2007 by winning what is now the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.

This year he fires a twin assault, with Leoncavallo of particular interest on what is his first competitive appearance since finishing sixth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October.

“Leoncavallo has done very well on the Flat for us, and has had a break since the Cesarewitch,” said Pipe.

“He’s in good form and won’t mind the (good to soft) ground. Hopefully he’s got a decent each-way chance.

“He’s got some good form in two-mile handicaps, and it looks an open contest on Saturday.

“He’ll be left in at Cheltenham, and we’ll see what happens this weekend.”

The nine-year-old is joined by stablemate Eamon An Cnoic, who won over the course and distance last month before filling the runner-up spot at Chepstow a week later.

Pipe added: “He’s 10 years old and is not getting any younger.

“He’s got decent form round Sandown. He would probably prefer softer ground, but takes his chance.”

Natural History impressed at Plumpton
Natural History impressed at Plumpton (PA)

The likely favourite for the £50,000 contest is Natural History, but trainer Gary Moore is far from confident about his chances.

The Nathaniel gelding claimed the notable scalp of Moore’s Champion Hurdle hope Goshen on the Flat in October, when trained by Andrew Balding and owned by the Queen, before changing hands for 105,000 guineas later that month.

He was beaten on his first two hurdling starts, but bolted up on his handicap debut at Plumpton recently – and is 16lb higher in the weights as a result.

When told his charge was the clear favourite for the Imperial Cup, Moore said: “I think it’s total madness.

“He’s gone up 16lb for a winning a small race at Plumpton. He probably went into it well handicapped, but he’s come out of it badly handicapped as far as I’m concerned.

“I think it will be a tough ask for him on only his fourth run over hurdles. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be backing him at 3-1 anyway.”

Langer Dan is well fancied for the formidable combination of Dan and Harry Skelton.

Dan Skelton said: “Langer Dan ran well at Market Rasen the last day and is probably one of those horses that as a second-season hurdler, going from juveniles and novices, has just taken a while to find his feet.

“I think Sandown will really suit him, because he wants a stiff finish and he didn’t have that at Market Rasen. I’m not saying he is going to win, but he goes there in good health and should run well.”

Miranda is one of three runners for Paul Nicholls
Miranda is one of three runners for Paul Nicholls (David Davies/PA)

Paul Nicholls saddles top-weight Miranda, as well as Diego Du Charmil and Malaya, winner of the race two years ago.

He told Betfair: “Miranda looked very good when winning a Grade Two mares’ hurdle at Doncaster at the end of January but keeps going up in the weights, so the 7lb claim of Angus Cheleda will certainly help. I expect her to run another solid race.

“Diego Du Charmil is talented and versatile, and did a lovely piece of work at Wincanton last week. He goes well fresh and is in good order.

“I have to admit Malaya was a bit disappointing last time at Ascot, where I felt the step up in trip would be in her favour. But after watching her that day, I am not convinced that is the case.

“While Malaya can be a bit in and out, she won this race two years ago, so we know the track suits her well – and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her bounce back to form.”

Natural looking to make History at Sandown

Ante-post favourite Natural History is one of 15 horses declared for the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

The prestigious handicap hurdle is the traditional feature the Saturday before the Cheltenham Festival and another competitive field has assembled for this year’s renewal.

Natural History, who carried the colours of the Queen when trained on the Flat by Andrew Balding, was a beaten favourite on his first two hurdling starts for Gary Moore.

However, the Nathaniel gelding made a mockery of an opening mark of 116 when bolting up on his handicap debut at Plumpton a couple of weeks ago and he is strongly fancied to follow up, despite a hefty rise in the weights.

Natural History’s closest rival in the betting is Dan Skelton’s Langer Dan, while Paul Nicholls saddles top-weight Miranda, as well as Diego Du Charmil and Malaya, winner of the race two year’s ago.

Martin Pipe and his son David have won the Imperial Cup on nine occasions between them and the Pond House team again have a couple of interesting contenders in Leoncavallo and Eamon An Cnoic.

Leoncavallo has not been seen in competitive action since finishing sixth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October, while Eamon An Cnoic won over the course and distance just last month.

Mick Maestro (Nick Kent) and Highway One O Two (Chris Gordon) are also in the mix.

Grade Three honours are also up for grabs in the European Breeders’ Fund Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final.

Pipe’s Martinhal, who is on a hat-trick following successive wins at Exeter, heads a field of 18 runners.

Nicky Henderson has a couple of major players in Captain Morgs and Patroclus, as does Nigel Twiston-Davies, with The Mick Preston and Beauport both declared.

The Nicholls-trained Rainyday Woman tops 18 declared for the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race.

The six-year-old must concede weight all round in her bid to double her Listed tally, having already impressed at this level at Huntingdon on her latest outing.

The dangers include Henderson’s Tweed Skirt and Alan King’s Finest View.