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Press Release 1st January 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark

Midnight River (6-1) followed up on his excellent third last time out in the Paddy Power Gold Cup with victory in the Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap Chase over the same course and distance at Cheltenham today.

Taking the lead on the turn for home, the eight year old Midnight Legend gelding blundered two out but kept finding more to take the honours by two and a quarter lengths from Stolen Silver in the Premier Handicap.

Winning trainer Dan Skelton said: “They have been very in and out but that was really good and I’ve enjoyed that. Of course it was frustrating when he came third here last time as he wanted slower ground. He would be better on this track and that combined with the slower ground has helped him today. I was very happy with how it all went out there.

“Our horses have not been in great form but the odd one or two is going to be able to run well but as a herd mine are just well below where they should be but that is because they were flying through the early part of the season and early winter.

“They then just took a dip but you can’t be absolutely ripping through it the whole time but he is a very a good horse.

“I said to the owners, and I have been straight up with all of them, that they have not been running great.

“We did have three winners on Boxing Day and four on the 28th, so they have not all been running terribly but as a group they have underperformed.

“Vicki Vale pulled up yesterday and Pikar didn’t pick up. They are good horses that normally pick up and power to the line but thankfully he did.

“As they passed the post in the Paddy Power I thought he could win a race like this. I’m not sure where he will go next but he might go to the Fleur De Lys Chase at the Winter Million Festival at Lingfield.”

Successful jockey Harry Skelton added: “That was brilliant. He means a lot to me this horse. You shouldn’t have favourites but he is up there on my list. We had him from day one as a three year old. We broke him in and have brought him through his whole career. It has not all been plain sailing as everyone has seen as he has had a couple of falls but he is learning his trade well.

“He is a real good stayer and he is much better on that ground today. It felt like I was doing a canter the whole way. I was keen once he hit that rising ground to get him rolling as he does stay well. Dan has done a great job with his career and nursed him in the right direction. He is a horse I would say with a lot of progression him. It is a bit sharper on the other course and this suited him better. People give a lot of instructions but at the end of the day you have got to ride your own race. The last day in the Paddy Power I couldn’t go any quicker. You have got to let them just warm to it and get them rolling.

“I don’t know where the celebration has come from. I give Virgilio about six years ago when he won the Summer Cup a big pat like that and everyone has cottoned on to it a bit. I suppose it might be a thing now if I have a good winner.”


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