Skelton: 'You couldn't script it'
Harry Skelton achieved a lifetime's dream when winning the G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase aboard Politologue for trainer Paul Nicholls and owner John Hales.
Skelton gave the grey nine-year-old a positive, front-running ride, and the chasing pack could never catch up. They beat Dynamite Dollars - also trained by Paul Nicholls, and the chosen ride of Nicholls' stable jockey Harry Cobden - by nine and a half lengths at odds of 6/1. The 2/5 favourite Defi Du Seuil (Philip Hobbs/Barry Geraghty) finished fourth of the five runners.
Skelton said: "It's my first ride in the Champion Chase. I owe so much to the Hales family. They have known me since I was a little kid. Pat used to take me around all the shows [they owned showjumpers with Skelton's father, Nick] and they are very, very good supporters of the family. Me and Dan [Skelton's trainer brother] grafted at Paul's for a long time and we will be ever-grateful for what he has done for our careers.
"Paul told me at the start of the season to come back and ride out a little bit. It's just magic. This is what he can do, he trains them to perfection. I am just so thankful to everyone for giving me the opportunity. I cannot believe it.
"As a kid you dream of winning these things. He was great all the way round; his ears were flickering back and forth the whole way and I thought, 'there's always a bit there when I need there to be', and I thought if I could stretch them from the top of the hill... I didn't want to go too hard and then completely warp myself, but from three out I landed running and set him alight, and he's kept going hard all the way up the run-in.
"Paul said to John that he was going to wait and go here fresh; he's a master. You know his horses from the back of three out they won't stop. He's trained them for the day. I spent a long nine years at Paul's grafting away, and every single day, every minute, every hardship, it's been worth it. What the Hales family have done for our family - you couldn't script it. It's my third ride for them, and the way down to the start I saw two magpies, and thought, perhaps this is it.
"Obviously Harry Cobden can only ride one horse, and last Wednesday John rang me up and said, 'Harry, you're riding Politologue in the Champion Chase - you'd better ring Paul and go down and sit on him'. Then you start believing. I sat down and watched every replay of him; you just do your homework. I had a sit on him, he felt great. If Paul tells you he's good and he believes in him, you can believe. Obviously it's all worked out perfectly."
Disappointment for Cobden, but a thrill for Burke
Last year's runner-up Politologue (6/1) sprang a surprise for Paul Nicholls and Harry Skelton in the £400,000 G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, but there were mixed emotions for the placed jockeys.
Nicholls' stable jockey Harry Cobden turned down the ride on the winner to instead take the mount on runner-up Dynamite Dollars (7/1), beaten nine and a half lengths, so was entitled to feel a tinge of disappointment.
Cobden said: "He jumped well and did everything right. We just got beat by a better one on the day."
The Tom George-trained Bun Doran (33/1) outran his dismissive odds, finishing a further three and a quarter lengths back in third. The nine-year-old's jockey Jonathan Burke said: "I really enjoyed that. It is a great thrill to ride any two-mile chaser, especially at the top level.
"He gave me a great spin and he jumped super - I suppose the tacky ground just stopped me quickening up from three-out.
"He is better than ever this season, Tom [George, trainer] has done a great job with him. Maybe we could go to Aintree now for the two and a half mile race [G1 Melling Chase]."
George grabs another Champion Chase place
Gloucestershire trainer Tom George is putting together a list of places in the G1 £400,000 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
He would love to convert one into a victory, but he was looking happy enough after his Bun Doran finished third in today's running. Winner Politologue (6/1) beat his stablemate Dynamite Dollars (7/1) by nine and a half lengths length, while Bun Doran (33/1) was a further three and a quarter lengths behind in third.
George said of the Johnny Burke-ridden Bun Doran: "He's run another good race and I can't fault it. The ground may have been a bit tacky, and he would prefer slightly wetter or slightly better ground, but he's run a good race
"He's become the fourth different horse I've trained that has been placed in the race in recent years after God's Own, Sir Valentino and Module, and now he's taken their shoes.
"I don't know where he will go next, but I would have thought he would run again this season."
Quotes from un-placed jockeys
Barry Geraghty (Defi Du Seuil, 4th): "I knew early that things weren't happening the way I'd like it to be. Jumping the fence away from the stands, he landed in a heap at the back of it and that is not him. I tried to nurse him and nurse him but I knew from the back of three out that the game was up.
"Full credit to the winner - he has been in every dogfight. He was the last horse Defi passed here in November and he is a high-class horse. He kept knocking on the door and has got his day."
Daryl Jacob (Sceau Royal, 5th): "He doesn't like that ground. We have tried and tested it before. He is a wonderful horse but he needs proper, nice, decent ground."