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    Skelton's Pride: A Key Player in Cheltenham's Dream Run
Skelton's Pride: A Key Player in Cheltenham's Dream Run
Trainer Dan Skelton with Midnight River on the background. Source: PA Images

Skelton's Pride: A Key Player in Cheltenham's Dream Run

Dan Skelton acknowledged Willie Mullins’ dominant presence at Cheltenham, yet he confronted his rival head-on by securing an impressive Grade One double on the third day of the Festival.

Wednesday signified Mullins’ 100th victory at the prestigious National Hunt event, prompting Skelton to highlight the shift where it's not solely about the UK challenging Ireland but rather everyone striving to keep pace with Team Mullins.

In recent years, British-trained horses have struggled to achieve success at the Festival. However, Skelton is determined to defy this trend, showcasing his determination with a double victory on day two followed by Grade One triumphs by Grey Dawning in the Turners Novices’ Chase and Protektorat in the Ryanair Chase.

Grey Dawning successfully held off a challenge from Ginny’s Destiny, trained by Paul Nicholls, while Djelo from Venetia Williams secured a rare British clean sweep by clinching the third spot. Meanwhile, Protektorat outperformed defending champion Envoi Allen, trained by Henry de Bromhead, over the challenging near two-mile-five-furlong course of the Ryanair Chase.

Both triumphant horses were ridden by Skelton’s brother Harry, leading the trainer to express his immense satisfaction after achieving a dual victory on such a grand stage. Skelton emphasised the significance of defeating esteemed rivals like Paul Nicholls, Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Gordon Elliott, and Henry de Bromhead, underscoring the gratification derived from such hard-earned victories.

The 2021 Festival witnessed a disappointing outcome for British trainers with merely five wins. However, Skelton’s successes, coupled with Paul Nicholls’ triumph in the Pertemps Final with Monmiral and Kim Bailey’s victory in the Ultima with Chianti Classico on the opening day, prevented a recurrence of such dismay by the mid-point of the third day.

While Skelton remains optimistic that fortunes will favour British trainers once more, he anticipates the challenge of closing the gap with the dominant Mullins team. He highlighted the need for dedication and perseverance in the face of tough competition, acknowledging the evolving landscape of the sport where a healthy balance of competition is essential for its growth and sustainability.

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