Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Press Release 13th March 2024 Cheltenham


Wednesday 13th March

The combination of trainer Dan Skelton and his jockey brother Harry brought up a 51.5-1 Style Wednesday double when Unexpected Party came home the winner of the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase. The pair had previously been on the mark with Langer Dan in the Coral Cup.

Dan Skelton said: : “A great ride from Harry. I thought we were going to take our time a bit more than that, but I suppose with the standing start he got a great start - brilliant.

“We were trying to get in this race last year, and out of frustration at the start of this year I had him super-ready at Chepstow, and he won a Listed novices’ chase. That bumped his handicap mark up and he ran in the Paddy Power off his new mark and didn’t see out the trip - you can see why I’ve always wanted to run over two [miles]. I wanted to run him in this race last year - I’m not saying he would have won it, I’m not, and his form since wasn’t really good enough but I thought he had a chance, but not more than a chance. It was a great ride.

“He’d been the bridesmaid so often, and had figured, but not more than that, and it starts playing on your mind - he won on good ground at Chepstow; is that everything that he has to have? Your mind starts playing tricks on you. But I remember coming here with Mohayyed once and saying, I don’t think we should run, the ground’s too soft, and quite rightly the owner’s husband put his foot down and said, it’s running. I learnt a great thing that day - if you’ve got them in form, sometimes the ground’s not perfect for them but you’ve got to run them.

“He had a great start to the year, but in the winter he was nowhere - he was finishing last in four-runner novices’ chases, admittedly good races, but finishing last and never looking like beating a horse,  but the handicapper reassessed him from the Paddy Power days back to the mark he started off this year, and that was probably a big help to him.

“He was very brave over the last two fences - two big jumps over them. I would say I was surprised Harry got both big jumps, but fair play to the horse, he needed both of them.

“They are a pretty enthusiastic group of owners, to be fair, and Linda Shanahan has been every time we’ve been here, I think. The team involved in this horse are all Coolmore friends and relatives, so there will be an expected party after Unexpected Party!”

Harry Skelton said: “It’s been a magic day. Absolutely fantastic. You come here dreaming of having winners and to have two in one day is brilliant.

“Every day matters and there are 365 of them. They all matter, but we shouldn’t knock how special it is here. These four days are our Olympics, and this is where everybody who owns, trains or rides a racehorse strives to hit the target.

“I must say Dan has done a great job with both of these horses and it’s great for the owners, who are good supporters.”

Evan Williams, trainer of runner-up Libberty Hunter, said: “No complaints, we were second best and had a dream run round. Harry thought he was always in a happy place, thought he’d win everywhere, then those pesky Skeltons kept galloping!

“Obviously he has only had two completed runs over fences, so it was always a bit of a gamble running in a race that’s run at such a fierce gallop as this old race. I’m delighted that he has come through it. I have plenty of belief in the horse, so to come and do that… second is lonely, but it was a great run.”


4.50pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) 2m

1 Unexpected Party 12-1

2 Libberty Hunter 6-1

3 Path D'oroux 10-1

4 Sa Fureur 4-1F

16 ran

Distances: 2¼, 3½, 7

Time: 4m 12.76s

7th winner at The Festival for jockey Harry Skelton

8th winner at The Festival for trainer Dan Skelton


Ireland 9

Great Britain 3


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.