A couple of winners on Sunday for Dan Skelton, will have lightened the mood somewhat, after the disappointment of losing Robin Roe for the season following his nasty fall in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
Sent off favourite on Saturday, the exciting novice hurdler crumpled on landing three from home, when looking to move into contention. It’s impossible to say whether he would have won the Grade 1, but he’ll now miss the remainder of the season after cracking a bone in his knee. There’s every chance that he’ll return over fences, and should he may a full recovery, he should make a stunning chaser.
It’s such a shame for Skelton and his team. Though the season is going well, finding potential Grade 1 winners is never easy, and Robin Roe looks the type that could bring huge success to the yard.
Nevertheless, the show goes on, and a terrific win for Superb Story at Musselburgh on Sunday will have proved a timely tonic. The two-mile hurdler has now gone up a whopping 25lbs in little more than a year, with four wins from nine starts over hurdles. The handicapper will have his say, but this six-year-old continues to improve, and may well return to Cheltenham in March and attempt back-to-back victories in the County Hurdle.
Another youngster in the yard who continues to go the right way, despite having not yet won this season, is Born Survivor. Carrying the familiar silks of Widdowson and Kelvin-Hughes, he’s a lovely big chasing type, and will no doubt be sent over fences next year. But, there remains prizes to be won over hurdles, and he appears to be on a winning handicap mark. He’s a powerful traveller through a race, but looks to lack gears. A stiff finish at two and a half miles may be ideal, though a step-up to three miles would come as no surprise. The Coral Cup looks an attractive Festival target.
I mentioned Superb Story’s continued progression at two miles, and the same can be said for both North Hill Harvey and Ch’Tibello. The former took the valuable Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last time, and is another owned by the Widdowson/Kelvin-Hughes combo. He’s a consistent type by the popular jumps sire Kayf Tara, and remains on a competitive handicap mark.
Ch’Tibello took on the best at Kempton over Christmas, and though coming-up short, was only beaten five lengths by Yanworth. He’s a big strong fella, and a mark of 145 may still give him a chance of bagging a valuable handicap before being sent over fences next season. He’s won or been placed in all bar one of his nine hurdle starts.
One that has struggled to meet lofty expectations is Three Musketeers. He unseated Harry Skelton when last seen at Newbury, having previously disappointed on seasonal debut at Aintree. He has an entry in the Ryanair Chase in March, but it would come as no surprise to see him switched back to hurdles when the spring festivals come around. He’s rated 143 over the smaller obstacles, and would be an interesting proposition in the Coral Cup come March.
I’ll also be interested to see how Mohaayed goes next time, after his terrific debut at Kempton when runner-up to Elgin in a strong looking novices’ hurdle. Rated over 100 on the flat, he’s clearly a classy sort. It was an impressive first attempt over obstacles, and you’d expect a fair amount of improvement for the experience. Whether he becomes a Supreme Novices’ contender remains to be seen, but he looks a cracking new-recruit for the yard. He’s entered in this weekend’s Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.
Finally a mention for Two Taffs, who made a pleasing chase debut at Kempton on Boxing Day. He was beaten by a very well handicapped Poker School on that occasion, but jumped well throughout, and being by Flemensfirth out of a Saddlers Hall mare, should make a lovely staying chaser in time. He’s certainly one to keep an eye on.
Despite Robin Roe’s mishap at the weekend, there’s certainly plenty for the Skelton team to look forward to over the coming months.