HomeAllHow the 2024 Cheltenham Festival Became One to Remember for the Skeltons

How the 2024 Cheltenham Festival Became One to Remember for the Skeltons

Almost everybody thought that the 2024 Cheltenham Festival was going to be washed by a sea of green, as the Irish have become a force to be reckoned with in National Hunt racing’s pinnacle event — mostly thanks to leading trainer Willie Mullins.

However, while the visitors did manage to retain the Prestbury Cup with a rather comfortable 19-9 win, the Skeltons must have missed the memo — as brothers Harry and Dan enjoyed a personal best Cheltenham Festival with a respectable four winners throughout the week.

As the jumps racing season prepares to wind down, let’s assess a Cheltenham Festival that will live long in the memory of the Warwickshire jockey/trainer duo.

Coral Cup – Langer Dan

The Skeltons got off the mark with Langer Dan in the Coral Cup, as the eight-year-old had an almost miraculous return to form to land the Premier Handicap from Ballyadam.

Langer Dan’s form figures in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival did not suggest that he was going to have a sudden resurgence, as he was deep in the field in three of his four outings and pulled up in the other — with ulcers and bleeding an apparent issue.

However, he hit form at the perfect time — travelling strongly in the Coral Cup and stretching to a three-and-a-half-length win over Ballyadam.

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Unexpected Party

Unexpected Party made it a double for the Skeltons on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase from outside odds in online sports betting.

Set off at 12/1, the nine-year-old raced prominently on the outer before going second six fences out from the finish.

Unexpected Party led four three out and fought off challengers over the last couple of obstacles to be ridden out to a victory of just over two lengths over Libberty Hunter.

It was another eye-brow-raising return to form from a Skelton horse, as Unexpected Party was well beaten by over 50 lengths at Cheltenham in January, but Dan cited the shorter trip as the reason behind the improvement.

Turners Novices’ Chase – Grey Dawning

Moving onto St. Patrick’s Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival now, and the luck of the Irish must have been on the side of the Skeltons once again, as Grey Dawning added a third win for the brothers in the Turners Novices’ Chase.

This time though, there were no surprises as the seven-year-old went off as the 5/2 joint-favourite alongside the Willie Mullins-trained Facile Vega.

He weakened approaching the last, however, while Grey Dawning stormed on up the infamous Cheltenham hill to beat Ginny’s Destiny by two lengths.

Ryanair Chase – Protektorat

Dan and Harry landed their biggest win of the week in the Ryanair Chase, securing a double on day three and getting their hands on the Festival Trophy thanks to Protektorat.

Priced at 17/2 pre-race, the nine-year-old travelled strongly and was in touch with the leaders before challenging two out from the finish.

In dispute of the lead with the favourite Envoi Allen at the last, Protektorat led on the run-in and kept on for a four-length victory over his nearest rival.

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