Harry Skelton maintained the pressure on Brian Hughes at the top of the Jump Jockeys’ Championship with a double at Huntingdon on Thursday (25th February), including a first victory of the season for Go Steady.
The Grade One-winning rider, who currently sits second behind reigning champion Hughes in the title standings, moved on to the 97 winner mark for the campaign, following the nine year old’s success in the MansionBet’s Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase.
Although the 31 year old rider remains in touching distance of Hughes, he admits it will be tough to reel him back in before the season is out to be crowned Champion Jump Jockey for the first time in his career.
Skelton said: “It is going really well and we will just keep tipping away but it’s going to be very difficult as Brian gets a lot of rides. Our horses are in great form and we will keep doing what we have been doing.
“A few more outside winners are the ones I really want but we will keep doing what we are doing and see how we get on.”
As for the 100-30 winner, which also completed a double for triumphant trainer, and the winning rider’s brother, Dan Skelton, the jockey added: “He was a bit unfortunate at Fontwell at the start of the year as he just landed on the ditch and unseated Bridget (Andrews) and he lost his confidence a little bit.
“He went back over hurdles and then he has come right today. He does like having a bit of sunshine on his back and hopefully he will progress now.”
Antunes put his first fence departure at Sandown Park behind him to get the ball rolling for the Skelton brothers when putting in an exemplary round of jumping from front to claim the feature MansionBet’s Bet 10 Get 20 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase by 18 lengths.
Tom Messenger, assistant trainer, said: “He was almost a bit too fresh at Sandown. The ground was very heavy that day and he couldn’t get out of the ground but he was much better today.
“His Chepstow run was quite good form, then we put him in the deep end in a Grade Two at Ascot before he fell last time at Sandown. This is back down to his grade and he has done what we expected him to.
“He is such a big horse and he ran on the Flat in the Germany and that probably put a bit of pressure on his body and he has just taken time to really come together and he is now reaping the rewards.”
Meanwhile Cotswolds-based trainer Fergal O’Brien continued his march towards reaching a century of winners in a season for the first time in his career, following the victory of No No Juliet who ran out a tenacious length and three quarters winner of the mansionbet.com Mares’ Handicap Chase.
Liam Harrison, rider of the 5-2 chance, said: “She was just a bit cold early and this track, even on soft ground, would have still been quite sharp for her. I had to let her warm up early on and thankfully it worked out in the end.
“I’ve only got two left before I lose my 7lb claim (for which he needs 20 winners) and I’m only riding for Fergal at the moment. We all want to get Fergal to 100 winners this season and we will do whatever we can.”
Fable (Evens Favourite) demonstrated that stamina is very much her forte in the MansionBet App Mares’ Maiden Hurdle when going one better than on her debut under rules at Wincanton to collect the extended two and a half mile prize by a length and a quarter.
Nico de Boinville, rider of the Nicky Henderson-trained winner, said: “I thought she wasn’t quite handling the track as well as she might. She is a really big mare and is solid. She has got a fantastic disposition. She was gutsy and stayed all the way to the line but she probably wants further than this.”