Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Press Release 14th March 2024 Cheltenham



Thursday 14th March

Protektorat may be “mad as a wasp”, in jockey Harry Skelton’s words to ITV Racing, but the French-bred nine-year-old thrilled the crowds when taking the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase and giving his owners Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason and John and Lisa Hales a quick-fire double just minutes after Monmiral won the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

It was also a fourth winner at The Festival 2024 for trainer Dan Skelton and his brother Harry, sons of British showjumping Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton.

Ferguson said: “Two in 40 minutes! It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? It’s a special place.”

Dan Skelton said: “He [Protektorat] was great - absolutely fantastic. When you see Envoi Allen loom up like that with all that experience around here, you just think, ‘Oh no’, but what a gritty, unbelievable horse. Some horses just love to run, and he’s like Forrest Gump. He just runs.

“He’s not quite Gold Cup standard. The reason I didn’t run him over this trip until now is that we’ve been trying to win a Gold Cup. It’s the one race the boys have not won and want to win, but it was obvious at the start of this season we needed to come down this route. That’s a biggie. That was brilliant. It’s magic.”

Harry said: “This horse deserves a day like this. He’s knocked at the door, and he’s won them in the past, but that’s a real big one for his CV.

“I just wanted to make sure I was out of the gate well, and, to be honest, that’s near enough the first time in his life that he’s settled. I was out smart and once they went real quick over the first two fences he was then almost in top gear, so I just slotted in behind Harry Cobden [riding Stage Star, eventual fifth]. I always knew Ahoy Senor [sixth] would be out to the right and so I’d have a gap when I needed one. I felt Rachael [Blackmore, on Envoi Allen, runners-up] come to my girths once we straightened up, but I wasn’t too worried as I knew he’d keep going real well. He’s a brave horse, and he was really good at the last.

“It’s a joy, isn’t it. It’s what you need.”

Asked if this is the coming of age of Dan Skelton Racing, Dan said: “It’s a massive family thing, Grace and Bridget – mine and Harry’s wives – they support us, they are there all the time. The work that the staff put in is phenomenal, not just in our yard, but in the whole industry – we cannot celebrate them enough. I wouldn’t say this is the coming of [age] of us, we’ve got great horses, we’ve got the support of these horses, and sometimes it just comes together.

“I don’t know what the magic dust was, I just don’t know. What is going on here is what we all try to do, it’s just it rarely happens.”

Part-owner John Hales, in whose colours – most memorably sported by horses such as One Man and Neptune Collonges – Protektorat ran, said: “Unbelievable. I’ve been in racing now for 25 years and it’s the first time I’ve ever done a double at Cheltenham. To win once is a privilege; to do it twice is just unbelievable. I’m so proud of my partners Alex and Ged, they can’t believe it. An unbelievable experience.

“To drop him back in trip from three miles, well done, well done, because that was a great move. He was brilliant today and I can’t speak highly enough of the two trainers and our two winners, because they are a dream come true.”

Last year’s Ryanair Chase winner Envoi Allen finished second for owners Cheveley Park Stud, trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore.

Richard Thompson, Cheveley Park Stud director, said: “I thought we had a chance coming into the last there. He has won three races here and been placed on two other occasions. What more could you ask for? He has been a marvellous horse for us.

“Rachael delivered him into the race at the right time. She sneaked him in there and I thought, ‘Here we go’. I think Rachael didn’t go for the big jump at the last as I think she thought she would get him up the run-in, but Protektorat ran away. Even if we had a better jump, I still think the other horse would have won.

“It is great to be in the shake-up of a race like this. We have won it for the past three years, so I suppose it was someone else’s turn. I totally believe he [Envoi Allen] knows when he is back at Cheltenham. We know we are back here at Cheltenham and I think they do, too.

“I think there is another big day or two in him, but he is 10 and you have got to be realistic as there are youngsters coming through. Just talking to Henry [de Bromhead], we might go to Aintree, but there is also Punchestown so it will be one of the two.”


2.50pm Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 5f

  1. Protektorat 17/2
  2. Envoi Allen 9/4F
  3. Conflated 11/1


11 ran

Distances: 4l, 23/4l, nk

Time: 5m 21.43s

7th winner at The Festival for jockey Harry Skelton

8th winner at The Festival for trainer Dan Skelton


Ireland 10

Great Britain 6


Cookie Policy

We use “cookies” to help enhance your experience and improve the functionality of our website. You can find out more in our cookie policy. We also serve cookies, some with chocolate chips, on our racecourses.