My Drogo continues progression with Ascot victory

My Drogo halved in price for the Cheltenham Festival as he ultimately ran out an impressive winner of the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot.

A winner at Newbury last time out, that performance was littered with jumping errors but the Dan Skelton-trained winner was much slicker on this occasion.

But he was made to fight for the victory, as the Tom Symonds-trained Llandinabo Lad tried to see them all off from the front under a 5lb penalty – and it was not until after the last that My Drogo (9-1) pulled two and three-quarter lengths clear.

“I was really impressed, the second is really good in this ground – I know he was giving away a penalty, but I was really impressed with our horse and how much he’d improved jumping-wise,” Skelton told ITV Racing.

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“We’d done plenty of practice at home, but before Newbury we couldn’t get him to make a mistake so were surprised how he jumped that day because he was moderate.

“He has bundles of class, he spent all last year with Polly Gundry and never got to run in a point because of Covid, but the extra year has given him such a chance because he’s much more mature.

“I’ll talk to the owners and work out the best route, but Cheltenham has never been the be-all and end-all this year for him because he’s every inch a chaser.”

Whenever the mud is flying horses trained by Venetia Williams can be counted on to be in the mix, and the Herefordshire trainer was on the mark with Enzo D’Airy in the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Winning rider Charlie Deutsch said: “I was thinking I might struggle to catch the one in front, but I was confident my lad would keep going and he’d have to be a good horse to get home having travelled like that on this ground.

“It turned out he folded in front and my lad picked up the pieces. He showed nothing over hurdles, but he jumped brilliantly today.

“You’re never afraid of the rain when you are riding for Venetia. I love riding these chasers in proper winter ground.”

Richard Johnson continued in good form with victory aboard Everglow (5-6 favourite) for his boss Philip Hobbs in the Sky Bet Money Back As Cash Maiden Hurdle.

“He jumped and travelled nicely through the race. I ended up making the running on him the last day, but he was green on his own so I wanted to get a lead,” said Johnson.

“We went very slow so I ended up in front, but he had his ears pricked and was looking at everything.

“It’s nice to get his head in front as he’s bumped into some good horses along the way.”

My Drogo delivers for Dan Skelton in Newbury opener

My Drogo appears to have a bright future after securing a surprise success in the Watch Racing Free Online At Ladbrokes “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle at Newbury.

All eyes were on Flinteur Sacre, a brother of multiple Grade One winner Sprinter Sacre, but it was the Dan Skelton-trained My Drogo who opened his account over hurdles at the first time of asking.

Despite being novicey at a number of his hurdles, the 100-30 shot found plenty up the run in after forging clear late on to defeat Saggazza by a length and a quarter, with Flinteur Sacre finishing a disappointing fourth.

Skelton said: “I was expecting plenty, especially after his good run at Cheltenham (second last month). I know he went off 50-1 in a bumper there, but that didn’t reflect what we thought. At home he has always been very precious.

“He had been so good jumping at home, I was a bit surprised he went out there and was very novicey at the second and splattered the fourth. The third last was brilliant and the last wasn’t great either. I think it showed what a big engine he has to overcome all that.”

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The Alcester handler will continue to take small steps with My Drogo, who was introduced at 33-1 for the Supreme and 25-1 for the Ballymore by Ladbrokes, before taking aim at bigger targets.

He added: “We will perhaps go one more low key before going fancy – I just don’t think he is ready for those types of day yet. As we get through the season into the spring, I think he will be a two-and-a-half-mile horse.”

Elusive Belle appeared to appreciate a return to better ground when scoring over fences at the second time of asking in the Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boosts Chase.

Having found testing conditions against her in a Listed contest on her chasing debut at Bangor, the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old looked much happier on a sounder surface, running out a four-length winner.

Henderson said of the 13-2 winner: “It was bottomless, heavy ground at Bangor that was almost unraceable. She got quite tired in that ground and I think anybody would have. She was much happier on that ground. Sam (Waley-Cohen) gave her a really good ride.

“Two miles is her trip and they went a right good gallop as she can go some. She won’t be one for the mares’ chase at Cheltenham as she won’t get the trip, she could be one for a Grand Annual later on.”

Paul Nicholls will step Bravemansgame up to Grade One company on his next start following his facile success in the Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football Novices’ Hurdle.

The five-year-old barely had to get out of second gear to add to his recent Exeter success, with the 8-11 favourite gradually winding up the pace entering the home straight before cruising home seven and a half lengths clear of Es Perfecto.

Nicholls said: “He did that well and we thought we would do that en route to coming back for the Challow here.

“After his last run, we were thinking about going straight to the Challow, but I just felt he came out of his last race so well that we would give him another run for experience before going for a Grade One.”

Bravemansgame was introduced at 16-1 for the Ballymore by Ladbrokes, while Paddy Power offer 25-1 for the same contest.