Protektorat has several Festival options this season

Dan Skelton’s gelding Protektorat has been one of the leading chasers in the UK and Ireland over the last couple of seasons. The highlight in that period was his Grade I success in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in 2022.

Skelton has given Protektorat two entries at the Cheltenham Festival in 2024, as he is in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Ryanair Chase, for which entries close in January. A decision on which of those races he lines up in will be made closer to the meeting.

Third shot at Gold Cup

Should he appear in the 2024 Cheltenham Gold Cup in 3 months, Protektorat will be having his third start in the blue riband event of the Cheltenham Festival. He is 66/1 to win the 3m2f contest, and those looking to back Skelton’s runner should consider the leading horse racing betting offers on the meeting. They include bet365’s bet £10, get £30 in free bets promotion which is available to new customers.

The eight-year-old made his Gold Cup debut in 2022 and he finished a respectable third in the race which was won by A Plus Tard. A year later, he was fifth of 13 runners in the 2023 renewal that went the way of Irish star Galopin Des Champs.

Protektorat now has an official chase rating of 165, which is 5lb lower than when he featured in the 2023 Gold Cup. He is one of 27 horses that have entries for the feature race at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Ryanair trip may suit

The former Grade One winner has yet to show his best form in two runs so far this season. Both of those appearances have come over distances beyond 3m. With that in mind, Skelton may be leaning towards the Ryanair Chase, which is over the short trip of 2m5f.

Protektorat has been successful over 2m4f at Cheltenham, so he has shown he has the speed for the Ryanair Chase. That race would be seen as an easier assignment for the British horse, as the Gold Cup is set to feature several big players from Ireland this season, although the Irish will be well represented in the Ryanair too.

Next appearance set to be Lingfield

Skelton has revealed that he expects Protektorat’s next run to come in the Fleur de Lys Chase at Lingfield on January 21st. That valuable race is worth £165,000, and it is one of the feature contests at the three-day Winter Million meeting, a concept introduced in 2023.

Although Protektorat was not able to score last time out in a handicap where he carried top weight, he did make the frame. It was a much better performance than his seasonal reappearance, so Skelton will be encouraged by that performance. The Lodge Hill trainer will be hoping to see his horse step up again on what is likely to be his final start before the Ryanair Chase or Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The 2024 Cheltenham Festival is scheduled for the 12-15th March 2024. The Ryanair Chase comes on the penultimate day of the meeting, while the Gold Cup is positioned on the final day.

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