Dan Skelton believes he has found an ideal opening for big-money purchase Interconnected to make his long-awaited stable debut at Huntingdon tomorrow (Thursday 25th February).
The seven-year-old, who was purchased by current owners Darren and Annaley Yates for £620,000 at the Goffs UK Spring Horses-In-Training Sales in May 2019, will make his first start in 727 days when contesting the opening MansionBet’s Watch And Bet Novices’ Hurdle.
Having chased home subsequent Grade Two winner Emitom on his sole start under rules for former trainer Nicky Henderson almost two years ago, the Alcester handler reports the Network gelding to be in good order ahead of what he hopes will be the start of a bright future under him on the track.
Skelton said: “It was a lot of money that the owners paid for him but these horses cost what they cost. It is his first run back for a while but I’m really happy with him at home.
“He had a little injury that just needed time but he is a beautiful horse. He is very much next season’s chaser and he will be doing that in the autumn, but we needed to dip our toe in the water somewhere gently and this looks ideal.
“Hopefully, he can run well as it is not the strongest race, but he will step forward for whatever he does.”
Meanwhile Skelton hopes Antunes can put his first fence fall at Sandown Park behind him and gain a second victory over fences in the feature MansionBet’s Bet 10 Get 20 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
He added: “He likes these small fields so that will suit him. He went so fast at Sandown the other day that he went no further than the first fence but he was good in the autumn and early in the winter. He ran well enough in a Grade Two at Ascot before Christmas and I expect him to go well back at this sort of level.
“We’ve not given him any Cheltenham Festival entries as that is not the right track for him. There is a nice novice chase at the end of March back at Ascot if he wins this.”
Go Steady ended last season with back-to-back wins at Warwick and Hereford and although the nine-year-old has failed to figure in three starts this campaign Skelton is optimistic he can bounce back to form in the MansionBet’s Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase.
He added: “Go Steady had a good end to last season but he has probably not been quite as well handicapped as he was last season. He is just starting to come back into form and there are still races to be won with him.”
Completing Skelton’s runners at Huntingdon is Gillytap, who will make her racecourse debut in the MansionBet App Mares’ Maiden Hurdle.
Skelton concluded: “She is a really stoutly bred mare that will want a fence in time. She was going to go point-to-pointing but with that all off it was decided to switch her to run under rules.
“We are just really looking forward to getting her started and hopefully she can perform well.”
Among those set to take on Gillytap is the Olly Murphy-trained Graces Order, who is expected to appreciate the step up to an extended two and a half miles.
Murphy said: “Graces Order is in good form. She has run once over hurdles at Wincanton and run well. I’m looking forward to stepping her up to this trip as that should suit her while I hope the ground stays as it is.
“She is a full sister to Grade Two winner Chris’s Dream so it is important we try and get a win over hurdles and fences into her.”
Although the ground may be against Dorisa Queen, trainer Warren Greatrex expects the five-year-old to build on her debut over hurdles at Newbury last month.
He said: “She just struggled on the ground at Newbury and it will probably be the same here but she needs the experience as she is not quite there yet.
“She will hopefully learnt a bit from Newbury. We are taking 10lbs off her back with Caoilin (Quinn) which will help in that ground.”
Greatrex also hopes retaining a hood on Mandalayan can have the desired effect on the six year old in the concluding MansionBet Handicap Hurdle.
He said: “He ran some really nice races as a novice, including here, but has been disappointing this season and he has not gone on yet.
“He ran better in a hood last time so we have got that on again. He will get to a level he can win at and I do think he is better than his current mark of 100.”