When Shelford battled to victory in the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday, it was yet another terrific win for the Skelton brothers.
Trainer Dan and jockey Harry have started their second season in style. Already closing in on last season’s winners total of 27, Dan Skelton is fast becoming a trainer to follow.
The son of Olympic show jumping Gold medallist Nick Skelton, a career with horses always looked to be on the cards. Dan spent nine years as assistant to Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, before going it alone in 2013. Success was always likely for a man able to learn his trade alongside one of the best. His first season concluded with a modest 27 winners. Victory in the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Ascot with Willow’s Saviour announced Skelton’s arrival on the big stage.
The purpose-built yard at Lodge Hill, in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside, is home to Dan Skelton Racing. Originally an extension of his father’s farm, work started in 2013 to transform the 90 acres into a state-of-the-art training facility. Badbury Hill Farm has been added as a second site for the enterprise, with further stables, and around 28 acres of pasture.
But it’s the quality of horses that will define Dan Skelton the trainer. That’s part of the business that is certain to take time, though Shelford already looks a promising type. Saturday’s win followed his success at the track two weeks earlier. He is a big scopey type, who should be able to jump a fence in time. Blue Heron is another recent winner that looks to have a great future. And then there’s Bertimont, who arrived from Ireland and made an instant impact when running away with a decent hurdle race at Chepstow, under an inspired ride from Harry. The horse had strong form in France as a juvenile and could be one for the winter’s big two-mile handicaps.
With November just around the corner, there’s certainly a ‘buzz’ around this fledgling team. Dan Skelton is without doubt fortunate to come from such great stock. In a sport where breeding plays such a crucial part in any success, he was certainly bred to excel. He is also blessed to have had the perfect grounding at Manor Farm Stables.
But none of this ensures a bright and prosperous future. It’s down to the man himself to make the most of this great opportunity. This talented young trainer has certainly hit the ground running. ‘Team Skelton’ look set to take the winter by storm.