Skelton is a man in a hurry

In recent seasons, the Skelton yard has largely focused on the core winter season, but stung by having been touched off by Willie Mullins in pursuit of a first British Trainers’ Championship, Dan Skelton has been firing in runners right, left and centre this May. It was, indeed, a cruel twist for Skelton, that having seen off his former boss Paul Nicholls, he should be upstaged by none other than Willie Mullins, a man who frequents British shores only for the marquee events.

He looks to be doubling down on the Championship assault in ’24-25, with 27 winners already having amassed over £200,000 in prize money (hat figure itself something of a side comment on the prizes on offer in the summer). With 17 winners in the last fortnight, and a 35% strike rate in hurdle races, this is a yard in a hurry.

And boy, what a hurry this is. A 9/1 treble at Stratford on Saturday evening continued a streak of form that is leaving the rest in the shade. Early days it may be, but even the prolific Fergal O’Brien is languishing at well under half the stakes won of the Alcester powerhouse.

Five year old Juan Bermudez set the ball rolling on Saturday, picking up division one of the Grace & Dottie Novices Hurdle, a symptom of perfect ground conditions. It was an overdue maiden success for the son of Nathaniel who has been bridesmaid at Fakenham and Huntingdon since his introduction in March.

The Skelton yard boasts a splendid 35% strike rate in chases, so it was difficult to oppose Hidden Heroics in the Farmers Fresh Handicap Chase, where he was sent off 7/2 favourite. Making the running for the first time appeared to retrieve the form that saw him successful last at Ludlow in December.

Hidden Heroics and Harry Skelton win the Farmers Fresh Handicap Chase from Bbold at Stratford. 1/6/2024 Pic Steve Davies

Given his breeding, it will have surprised no-one to see Supreme Yeats staying on to land the final Handicap Hurdle over 2m6f. A change of scene from laura Morgan’s seems to have rejuvenated his form, and it would be no surprise to see him defy a penalty.

Meantime, other handlers have also been making hay, and Marlborough was double-handed as David Weston and Emma Lavelle both enjoyed a winner. Weston’s East Kennet yard is hardly a full-time operation. He hasn’t returned to the dizzy heights of four seasons ago, when 26 runners produced 6 winners, but one from two isn’t so bad. It all looked pretty smooth for James Davies on Six And Out, second throughout in division 2 of the novices hurdle, before picking off the leader before the last and staying on to win by 1 1/2l.

Lavelle has enjoyed greater prominence after making the leap to train at Peter Makin’s old yard at Ogbourne Maizey. With the retirement of stable stars like Paisley Park, it’ll be a time for renewal. Porter In The Park appears to enjoy this ground, having already been successful at Ludlow and touched off at Market Rasen this Spring. Off a lowish weight at this level, he’s well capable of adding to his tally, winning here by 2 3/4l from Olly Murphy’s Secret Trix in a 3m2f handicap hurdle.

Porter In The Park and Joe Anderson [centre] jumps the last to win the Scott Davis Memorial Handicap Hurdle from Secret Trix [left] and Wbee [right] at Stratford. 1/6/2024 Pic Steve Davies

Gary Hanmer is another who thrives in the slightly less competitive environment of summer jumping. May has always been a fertile month for him, with 6 winners this year, 5 in 2023, and 8 in 2022. Rotten Row began June as Hanmer had left May, with a ready 4 1/4l win over Begin The Luck in the BRC Roofing’s 30th Anniversary Handicap Chase under Robbie Dunne.

The pair were unlucky not to strike a second time, coming off a half length worse on Northern Rose to Anthony Honeyball’s Getmetothemoon in the mares handicap hurdle. Both first and second were staying on well, and it won’t be long before Northern Rose too will break her duck.

Getmetothemoon and Rex Dingle track the leaders on the way to winning at Stratford. 1/6/2024 Pic Steve Davies

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