DAN SKELTON is hoping to strike Gold this season with an exciting team of horses.
The 37-year-old smashed through the £2 million prize-money barrier for only the second time last winter.
And going into the jumps season proper he probably has the strongest group of horses he has ever assembled – including a live Cheltenham Gold Cup contender in Protektorat who was third in the big race last year.
“With a better jump at the last this year he may have been second in the Gold Cup but I think A Plus Tard was pretty superior on the day.
“I think with slower ground it would have helped us. His build-up was perfect and there were no complaints at all.
“Next year he will be a year stronger and has a year’s more experience under his belt but let’s get started at Haydock and take on A Plus Tard there first.
“It used to be said that if you didn’t win the Gold Cup at your first go you will never win it so I am encouraged that A Plus Tard won the Gold Cup on his second attempt rather than his first.
“Everybody knows that his run at Aintree was not the real Protektorat. You would have to say that the race that would really suit him is the Cotswold Chase but that is a discussion to be had after the Betfair Chase.
“I’m very positive about the horse and he is Gold Cup standard.”
“I’d say Shan Blue falling at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall was the worst part of last season.
“The race was won and it was such a huge shame. The fact he got back last season was a massive effort, but there is massive unfinished business there.
“His time in the Kauto Star at Kempton was faster than the King George that year and that does suggest he would be a player in a race of some description.
“Potentially he could be a King George horse. If he wins the Charlie Hall you go to the King George before you make another plan.
“I’m thinking he is going to go to Wetherby again and he will be hard to beat.”
“I hope you see a performance like last year in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November as that is where we are going to start him again.
“I think everybody now appreciates that he is very good fresh and then we will consider the rest of the season.
“We just have to take it step by step with him a little. I’d love to see him back in the Champion Chase.
“Is there unfinished business there? I think there is after his narrow second in it the year before.”
Third Time Lucki
“I was a little bit deflated after he finished third in the Henry VIII at Sandown.
“We decided to make the running as we had been saying we were going to do it one day, but by the Pond Fence you could see he had run his race.
“Ultimately last season he won two Grade 2s and looked good doing that but I suppose the disappointing day was the Kingmaker at Warwick when Edwardstone beat him as I went there thinking ‘we’ll win today’.
“He will start in the Haldon Gold Cup and he has got to be a player in that race.”
“We are going to have to be patient with him as he has just gone back to Polly Gundry’s where he will do a lot of pre-training there and then we will get him back.
“He is phenomenally talented and we have got to make sure when he comes back to the track he is in as robust condition as he could possibly be.
“It was very unfortunate the injury he picked up last year. Hopefully he could be back for the spring but you have to be sure with any leg injury.”
“I think we will go back for the Old Roan. I’m really happy with him this autumn as he just disappeared after Aintree and I don’t know what happened.
“The wheels properly fell off but he looks back to his bullish self now. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. If the reality was that he had given his lot then so be it but I don’t think he has.”
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