Two Warwickshire lads taking on the big names in racing
As Cheltenham approaches, the successes of the smaller yards generally diminish as the big guns flex their muscles in preparation for the Festival's key 28 races. Yet this past weekend was a triumph for two of our less well known stables as Dashel Drasher lowered the colours of Cyrname for Jeremy Scott at Ascot, and Richard Hobson, based outside Bourton-on-the-Water, took Haydock's Grand National Trial with a determined front-running effort by Lord du Mesnil.
In between times, it was business as usual for the undisputed king of the Warwickshire cop, when the Skelton team enjoyed a rapid fire treble at Ascot with Midnight River, Captain Chaos and Shannon Bridge.
In a relatively short time, Dan Skelton has become a major force on the National Hunt stage, challenging for top honours against trainers twice his age. His 100th winner of the season on Saturday is the sixth consecutive century of winners since he began training in the 2013-14 season. The yard has earned over £1m in prize money in each of those 6 years, and shows no sign of stopping now. This is a man with a hunger to be the top dog, and there's little to say he won't get there.
Younger brother Harry has ridden 90 of the 100 winners this season. He's occasionally asked why he doesn't ride more for other yards, but in truth, why would you need to? His 20 rides to date for other trainers have resulted in 3 additional winners, but the sheer quality and quantity of the Skelton Snr operation requires a dedicated focus that he's been glad to give. It is perhaps the only thing that might prevent Harry from becoming champion one day.
However, the Warwickshire training landscape is not totally dominated by Team Skelton. Wilmcote-based Olly Murphy enjoyed a winner at Uttoxeter today, and is another young trainer making a name for himself. Another graduate from the Point-to-Point ranks, he rode 30 winners as an amateur before embarking on a career in training. Spells with Alan King and Gordon Elliott have more than proved their worth.
In just for years, Olly has embedded himself on the Jumps scene. With 57 winners so far this season, and a first Grade II success from Itchy Feet in the Scilly Isles, We can expect to see a gradual improvement in the quality of the winners too. After announcing himself with a string of summer jumping success, the winners are now all year round and in better races too. Increasingly, training is becoming a young man's game.
Move over Grandpa!