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Press Release 13th November 2022 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark and Nick Seddon

Nube Negra (1-10 Favourite) made light work of defending his Grade Two Shloer Chase crown as he came home the facile winner of the two-mile contest at Cheltenham today, day three of The November Meeting.

A comfortable six-length winner in 2021, his task today was made substantially easier with the defection of principal rival Edwardstone. The eight year old Dink gelding gave his partner Harry Skelton no cause for concern in 2022 as he sauntered to an eight-length triumph over Ganapathi.

Betfair/Paddy Power left Nube Negra unchanged at 12-1 for next month’s Grade One Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park (Saturday 3rd December).

Successful trainer Dan Skelton said: “I’m just happy to get it out the way with to be honest. When you’re 1-10 you’ve got everything to lose and nothing to gain and I was actually thinking about things like a shadow at a fence when he was on his way out (that could derail him). He’s done what he should have and we learn nothing really.

“It’s a shame that the race has cut up for the racecourse, the fans and the sponsor but that’s racing. We had to withdraw at the Festival because of unusual conditions and a few have had to do the same here and that’s how sport is sometimes.

“We got our conditions and we’d have loved to have had a bit of a fight, but it didn’t materialise today. I’m sure it will later in the year and it’s got our season off to the perfect start. Harry said he felt great and was moving well and he was sure footed everywhere. I think he was a bit surprised to find himself in front at such an early stage, but he went through very smoothly and very balanced.

“I have to say a very well done to Jasean Spraggett, Terry’s (Spraggett, owner) daughter. She had him from when he came in from the field this year and did a lot with him at home and he’s come back as well as I’ve ever had him.

“To be fair he’s a very easy horse to train in one regard because he gives you so much but sometimes you can overstretch the band with him – and that’s why he’s been so good fresh in the past. Today is literally a canter round so I don’t think it’s a day which will take it out of him but that’s why you’ve not seen so much, because he puts so much in that you can’t go to the well very often.

“I’m stone cold on the fact that he won’t go to the Tingle Creek. We’ve been there a few times and we’ve learned that it doesn’t work and I think if we go anywhere it will be Kempton (for the Desert Orchid Chase) – but I need to have a chat with Terry about it. We harbour major ambitions for here in March, we were second two renewals ago and we feel we’ve got some major unfinished business (in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase).

“He can only do it if the ground is in his favour, I don’t think that Good To Soft with the odd Soft patch is an issue, but what we had in March was just something different altogether and we might still be looking for him now if he ran! You’ve got to be sensible in that regard.

“The serious race for him is the Desert Orchid – and that’s the only one between here and then (The Festival) – but I’ll have to chat to Terry. It wouldn’t be something that we decide today or commit to until we really have to. There was a thing in the paper the other day saying that we’re in an era where horses can only run three times a year. That’s not an apparent thing, that’s a reality and everyone has to understand that horses can only give their best that many times a year.

“If you go around like that at 1-10 you can give a lot more because it’s not taking a lot out of you, but if you look at Protektorat next week and taking on the Gold Cup team, that’s going to take six weeks to get over. We’re not in a time where trainers are being overprotective, we’re in an era where we’re trying to get our horses to the big races at the appropriate times and it’s hard to do. The worst thing is you go there when you’re not prepared and you get an even harder run.”

Harry Skelton added: “The gate was open for him but you have got to go out there and do it. He jumped well and felt good and that was about all we learnt really.

“To go out there on a horse like that is a good old thrill. He jumped great. I couldn’t tell you if he feels any different to last season. He has just gone around there today and got the job done. I’m in the lucky position in the job that I have got that the only pressure I have is the pressure I put upon myself. I ride for brilliant owners and a great trainer. We are all in it together and we all want to win.

“He is very good fresh and I will leave it to Dan and Terry and his daughter, who did a great job with him at the start of the season doing a lot of pre-training, to make a plan.”

On hand to make the presentation for the Shloer Chase was Yorkshire and England wicket keeper/batsman Johnny Bairstow.

Johnny Bairstow said: “What a fantastic morning. It is an emotional rollercoaster over the last couple of months but it is fabulous to see the boys lift the World Cup out in Australia. There was a lot of things said last summer about where the white ball team were at but it has proved a few people wrong and made them look a bit silly. That makes it even better when you are part of that environment. I was quite emotional this morning. It was amazing and pure elation for the lads.

“The feelings you have when you are watching the World Cup final and seeing the guys win it and the bits people don’t see with the behind the scenes stuff and the hard times that some people have gone through to be out there to represent England in a World Cup final is fantastic.

“I’m fortunate to come to another fantastic sporting spectacle today with some really amazing friends who sponsor the Shloer Chase and it makes it more special being with them.

“I am partial to a day’s racing. I think it is more just the understanding of what the jockeys go through and the training side behind it and the hard efforts that go into preparing a horse to jump over hurdles and fences. There were some interesting speculation whether Ben Stokes should or shouldn’t be playing a couple of weeks back but you want you big players in big games that have experienced big moments previously and that is exactly what he is. You keep in contact with them. I’ve experienced a lot growing up with a lot of them and it is amazing to be part of the journey to be double world champions. It is a fantastic achievement.”

Patrick Neville, trainer of runner-up Ganapathi, said: “That was lovely. Pity we didn’t have another one in to finish fourth! I’m delighted with him. That was his first run for us and we had to take a chance.

“He probably wants further looking at that. He is a lovely horse and he will improve. I put a tongue tie on him and that has helped. We will try aim him at a couple of more nice races and keep collecting the prize money.”

Neville had earlier gone one better with The Real Whacker (10-1) made the perfect start to his career when making all to land the opening Novices' Chase over an extended three miles.

Despite being the only one of the five starters to be making his chasing debut, the six year old son of Mahler jumped from fence to fence under Gavin Sheehan. At the final fence he faced a strong challenge from Irish challenger Indigo Breeze but kept finding more for a game three-quarter length success.

Winning trainer Neville, 50, has around 15 horses in training at his base in North Yorkshire, which he shares with Ann Duffield, and was enjoying his first winner at Cheltenham.

Patrick Neville said: “He is a smashing horse and we have always loved him. This is his game fences.

“We ran him here a couple of weeks ago and the ground was probably a bit too quick for him over hurdles. He was very good over hurdles but he probably just needed that run as he was a bit rusty. He is a gorgeous horse. On softer ground he would probably be better.

“His jumping was outstanding. Gavin was brilliant on him too. It was not easy for horse going first time over fences to do what he has done. Gavin is very positive on horses and that is why we use him.

“I moved over 12 months ago. I had plenty of winners in Ireland but was finding it hard. I’m based at Ann Duffield’s. I was training the jumpers and she was doing the Flat horses. We work well together. I struggled to get my licence for 10 or 12 months for some reason. The amount of paperwork and everything we had to do was ridiculous but we got there in the end. It is nice to have a winner today.

“We have a nice team of owners and staff. It is great for that horse and I’m delighted. It was his first day over fences and he has done it the hard way. I’m delighted for the owners and the horse. I moved over last November. Things were tough enough at home. I didn’t have the owners and I had a lot of bad debts creeping up as I was training to pay other people’s bills and the part of the country I was the horses got sick at the same time due to air pollution. I was in west Limerick which is a lovely area but the air pollution was crippling me. We came over with horses to Perth and Hexham and we had good success there so we decided to stay as it was costing too much to come over and back. I’m delighted we made the move.”



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