Protektorat continued a faultless start to his chasing career with an authoritative display in the SSS Super Alloys Supports Racing Welfare Novices' Chase – a performance that saw him receive a 25/1 quote from Paddy Power for the G1 Marsh Novices’ Chase at The Festival™.
The five-year-old was awarded the Listed Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in the stewards’ room at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day but enjoyed a far more straightforward chasing introduction for Dan Skelton at Carlisle on 22 October, when he made all to win by seven lengths.
Sent to the front again by Harry Skelton, Protektorat produced an assured round of jumping and forged clear when Southfield Stone briefly threatened for the lead three fences out. The 6/5 favourite increased his significant advantage in the home straight, coming home a full 17 lengths clear at the line.
Dan Skelton said: "I'll settle for that! [when told that part-owner John Hales had just told Alice Plunkett that Protektorat was his Gold Cup winner]. When we got him from France, he was just one of those National Hunt horses you get sometimes as juveniles that think they are incredibly quick, but actually they've got a quick brain and almost slow legs, and once they learn to accept that this is the speed that they are, they are so much better. How many juveniles do you see come from France that are a bit quick in year one, and so much better in year two and then three? It's been a case of giving him time, treating him right at home, and ultimately getting him over a fence - that's been the final key.
"You do depend on your team at home. You can't be around them all the time every day, and sometimes you can see too much of a horse and sometimes you can see too little of it - there's a happy medium there as a trainer or a horseman, whatever you want to say, where you trust your people to get on with the job, and he's been a real advert for that. At home we don't have to work him particularly hard; you don't need to work him with other horses because he's always doing plenty. Chris [King, former event rider] did loads of jumping at the start with him, and it's just worked really well."
Harry Skelton said: “Protektorat was unbelievable. You don’t see many horses jump round Cheltenham like that. He is a horse we think is a three-mile chaser, although we won’t over-race him this year and he won’t be going three miles yet. He is only five-years-old, but hopefully he is very good.
“I have not ridden many that jump round here like that! He was unreal. He is a horse we’ve always thought a lot of. To be honest the first year we got him he was a bit of a hooligan, a bit of a write off, but he’s just got better and better. We see him very much as a three-mile chaser, we won’t go three miles this year — he’s only five years old, we’ll just mind him and keep at two and half miles, just try and make him the best possible horse he can be. He hasa everything there to be a very good horse, so hopefully he is going the right way.
“I was never worried about the trip, he’s an out-and-out galloper. He’s a horse we are hopefully producing into a very good horse.
“There’s no big rush. We’ll enjoy this one [today], won’t run him too often now, he’s only five and I think next year he could be very, very good.”
2.15pm SSS Super Alloys Supports Racing Welfare Novices' Chase 2m 4f 44y
1 Protektorat – Dan Skelton 5-11-07 Harry Skelton 6/5F
2 Southfield Stone – Paul Nicholls 7-11-10 Harry Cobden 11/4
3 Paint The Dream – Fergal O’Brien 6-11-02 Connor Brace 12/1
Time: 5m 7.72s
Tote win: £1.60 Ex: £3.60 Trifecta: £13.70