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Skeltons aren't for stopping

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Reading this, you could be forgiven for thinking I'd duplicated my post of 5 days ago, but no, Dan and Harry Skelton enjoyed another bumper crop of winners at Stratford today with yet another four-timer that served notice of intent on Brian Hughes that the Jockeys' Championship may be headed to Warwickshire from the north.

In fact, the Championship was the talk of the day. The Skelton pairing opened their account in the opener with smart juvenile Stepney Causeway, a 15l winner from Hughes in second place. No great surprise there at a price of 4/11.

Hughes fought back in the second to rekindle the confidence of Charlie Longsdon-trained Nightfly, back to winning ways after hitting the deck back in October under Richard Johnson at Hereford. A happy owner-breeder, Dee Flory, was at the races for the first time since before Christmas to see her home-bred win the silverware.

From then on, it was virtually a Skelton benefit. Born Survivor in the handicap chase, even money Dan Gun in the second division of the handicap hurdle and Irish Point-to-Point winner Get Sky High in the bumper wrapped up proceedings, the latter owned by Gordon Pink and his wife. Gordon was a one-time director of Bovis Homes in Cheltenham.

Skelton has now usurped Hughes as favourite to become Champion Jockey, which is remarkable given his rides are almost exclusively for the one stable. On that basis, it can also only be a matter of time before the elder Skelton wins his own (Trainer's) Championship.

The atmosphere at Stratford was noticeably more upbeat then 10 days ago, with more trainers attending to look after their owners. And as owners are the lifeblood of the sport we all cherish, it was good to see them back on course, able to watch, albeit behind cordons and barriers, the equine charges they fork out for week after week.

Discussion in the press room centred on how some racecourses had remained in business, and I was able to remind others that the grass roots of racing has managed its way through the Covid crisis without the benefit of TV revenues. If you want to know how to run a race meeting on a shoestring and still put on competitive racing and an entertaining afternoon, Shelfield Park on April 11 is worth watching on the live stream whilst you cannot attend in person.

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