Dan Skelton watched Nube Negra land the Shloer Chase in emphatic style, then admitted: “I learned more this week about the game that I probably ever have done.”
It has been a fortnight of varying fortunes for the Skelton team but trainer Dan and his jockey brother Harry had smiles back on their faces after the Spanish-bred seven year old handed them a second Grade Two success of the three-day fixture.
Having finished the half-length runner-up to Put The Kettle On in the Grade One Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival back in March, Nube Negra had that rival behind him in a well-beaten third today as he triumphed by six and a half-lengths from runner-up Politologue.
Dan Skelton said of his 9-4 winner: “That was brilliant and I’m just chuffed to bits with the horse, he was beaten a neck in the Champion Chase and I think that was a very strong race.
“I know Put The Kettle On didn’t turn up today but you’ve got Politologue in front going a hard gallop – which he kept up all the way to the line. I don’t know what Paul said before the race but he looked a fit horse, so that’s strong form and I’m just so proud of the horse.
“Sometimes you get washed under a bit with a second place, but I’m just so happy for him and Terry (Spraggett) who owns him has always wanted a big time horse and he’s got one now. Now we’re going to look after him and he’s out of novice status now and into the big leagues, where it’s about winning these races.
“I’m sorry to beat John (Hales) and Paul (Nicholls) with Politologue, who didn’t deserve to get beaten there and ran his heart out.
“It doesn’t matter what sport you’re in, when you get beat it’s about being a professional. Sometimes it rolls against you and what can you do.
“There’s no point getting the hump and stamping your feet and saying you want to give up the game, you’ve got to use those situations to your advantage and learn from them. I learned more this week about the game that I probably ever have done, because I’ve got better horses.
“When you’re running these good horses things can go different ways, but that’s just sport and I’m proud to be a part of it. I had a tingle in my hands after he jumped the last and I don’t think I’ve had that ever. Racing is just brilliant.”
Reflecting on My Drogo’s penultimate fence fall two days ago in the SSS Super Alloys Novices’ Chase, Skelton went on: “Friday is Friday and today is today. We all have upsets in sport and you’ve just got to roll with the punches.
“He (Nube Negra) may go to the Tingle Creek, but we’re staying in the present and that’s a big race.”
Nube Negra was cut to 4-1 (from 6-1) by sponsor Betfair for next month’s Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park and is into 10-1 (from 20-1) for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase next March.
Jockey Harry Skelton added: “These races are very important. He is a good horse and I’m glad he got it right today. I think the ground was a bit dead for him today to be honest but he had to stay today and he showed that. It was really good.
“We’ve always looked after him. He was a good traveller as a juvenile, he just wasn’t quite seeing out but now he is a strong horse he is finishing his races out well. It was brilliant. We have learnt he handles it around here and that he handles a bit of slower ground better now.
“We are very lucky we have got a good horse that was bang on for the day. It was a bit difficult as he travelled around easily but at the same time I knew Put The Kettle On was not travelling as well as she could but I knew she was a good stayer and I was a bit reluctant to go by but I didn’t want to give Politologue too much rope.
“He travelled very well throughout the race and has seen it out well today. Fair play to Dan and Terry (Spraggett, owner) as they have minded him and looked after him and we have now got a really good horse on our hands. I hope so (go all the way in Queen Mother).
“He did really well last season so there is lots to look forward to. He is really good fresh. I’ll leave things to Dan as he wanted to come here today and he has got it right and he does a good job of that.
“It has been an up and down week but I had a very important phone call on Friday night from a very important person whose opinion matters a lot to me. I thank him for the call and the physios at the racecourse for sticking me back together.”
Paul Nicholls, who trains runner-up Politologue (5-1), said: “Politologue could do with the ground a lot slower now just to suit him as he was flat out all the way round and was using a bit too much all the time to try and stretch them.
“The winner is seven and likes good ground so we’re at the other end of the scale but I’d say there’s still a nice race in him somewhere on soft ground and we’ll find somewhere for him. He’s run a really good race.
“If the Tingle Creek came up testing in three weeks’ time, I would not be afraid to let him have a go at that, but if not we can wait and go to Kempton or that January race at Ascot – I’d say he’d be at his best now on slow ground where stamina is a bit more of an issue over two miles.”
Put The Kettle On, the 15-8 favourite, had won all of her four previous starts at Cheltenham but today could manage no better than third, beaten just over 11 lengths.
Her jockey Aidan Coleman reported: “They just had too much speed for her.
“Usually on that ground they don’t come back and I finished with loads of mare. I wasn’t tired at the line but in that ground they’ve gone quick and they just don’t stop. I was waiting for a collapse in the pace but in good ground it’s not going to happen.
“She hit the line strong and there’s a lot of positives - it was just too dry for her I think.”