Dan Skelton happy to take Champion challenge with ‘improving’ Superb Story
Thursday 16 February 2017
Dan Skelton feels Superb Story has each-way claims in a wide-open renewal of the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
The Alcester trainer is keeping last year's winner of the County Hurdle fresh for the Cheltenham Festival, after the six-year-old showed his well-being with victory at Musselburgh on New Year's Day.
That race erased the memory of a disappointing trip to Ireland for the Galway Hurdle in July.
"We're heading for the Champion Hurdle. It's an open race," Skelton said. "It's not packed deep with horses rated 170, but who's to say one of these isn't going to go on and win two. He is improving.
"It was the first time I ran him up at Musselburgh where fitness-wise I thought there was room for improvement.
"Up to then I've always had him very fit for his runs, but at Musselburgh I thought I had to trust him. If he's going to be a Champion Hurdle horse he can do this without me having to fully turn the screw and we can leave a bit of improvement for March.
"I'm very happy with him. The one thing about him is he can travel at any speed. For three-quarters of the race in the Champion Hurdle I don't think the pace they go at in the Champion Hurdle he will be out of his comfort zone.
"From turning in, it's all about how good you are and we don't know because we've never chipped him into graded company.
"I'm a bit in the dark, but I do believe in the horse and hopefully we've got at least an each-way chance if we line up."
The Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle is the target for North Hill Harvey after he won the Greatwood at Cheltenham on November.
"He's absolutely fine. He is going straight for the County, a bit like we did with Superb Story last year," Skelton told At The Races.
"I've kept him fresh. I know the track suits him. You can spend all winter running in bad ground annoying him and giving him bad experiences.
"At the end of the day he showed a great attitude when he won the Greatwood, so I'm not going to give him any reason to not show his best card at Cheltenham in the County Hurdle."
Skelton also had news of stablemate Shelford, who is likely to run at Fontwell next week rather than take his chance in the Betfred Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday.
Skelton feels Shelford is disadvantaged by the race conditions as he would have to give weight to all his rivals, except for Agrapart in the Grade Two on Merseyside.
Therefore he is looking to save the eight-year-old for the Totepool National Spirit Hurdle on Sunday week.
"I probably won't run Shelford. If it was level weights he'd have a great chance, but the conditions of the race won't really suit him with a few horses," the Alcester said.
"What I'm probably going to do is hold fire with him and take him to the National Spirit next week."