Dan Skelton is keeping his options open with the exciting Galia Des Liteaux (11-4), after she picked up a second victory in three starts over fences in some style when taking the Grade Two eventmasters.co.uk Hampton Novices' Chase at Warwick today.
The seven year old was pulled-up when last seen in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park over Christmas, but this was much more like it in particularly testing conditions, pouring it on under Harry Skelton after turning for home with a narrow lead.
That advantage would grow to 13 lengths by the winning post, a victory which saw Galia Des Liteaux shorten into 14-1 with the sponsor for the Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at The Cheltenham Festival, but Skelton revealed that he would head into the next few months with an open mind.
He said: “I knew coming here that she wants slow ground and I know she stays. She won at Bangor because she was good, not because two miles suits her, so I was always confident that three miles would be much more like it and she’s going the right way as a chaser.
“She’s put a lot in today so we’ll be respectful of her efforts. It would be easy to say that we’ll go for the Towton Novices’ Chase (at Wetherby) in three weeks’ time, because the ground will be heavy and it will really suit her, but I will harbour more respect for her than that.
“If we give her an extra two weeks and consider the Reynoldstown (at Ascot) that’s fine and if we got a really soft Cheltenham that would come into consideration and I’d have to skip Ascot. Then I’ll just get a bit adventurous and see what there is for mares – on both sides of the Irish Sea – because nothing is jumping off the page.
“I don’t think she won’t perform well on quicker ground, I just think she’s very effective in that. Sometimes when you have a horse who is super effective in that, they can outrun themselves by 20lbs and more and she’s a really exciting prospect and a great asset for us.”
Winning jockey Harry Skelton added: “She loves those conditions, like I said this morning (on ITV’s The Opening Show). It was a bit of rider error the last day at the second when I went a bit cold on her and then the sun got her a bit with those shadows down the back. She jumped like a buck today and she’s a good mare on her day.
“To be honest we don’t really have a plan for her, we had this race in mind for a few of our horses but it just fit right for her to come here. Winning a Grade Two with a mare is a big thing breeding wise, but she’s a good prospect moving forward.”
Meanwhile, the Gary Moore-trained Haddex Des Obeaux (5-4 Favourite) was introduced at 10-1 for the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase The Cheltenham Festival after trouncing the field by 19 lengths in our second race, the Wigley Support Fund Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase over two miles.
The four-strong field was a small but select one and included a Grade Two winner in Third Time Lucki as well as the improving Galop De Chasse, though neither could live with Gary Moore’s charge, who bounded to a 19-length pillar-to-post success.
And while he wouldn’t be drawn to Festival targets, the winning jockey Jamie Moore hinted that the six year old could be back out sooner rather than later.
He said: “That was impressive and I could have done with the last fence being in as he jumps so well! It’s a track that’s custom made for him, we saw the race in the entries book and once he saw those fences we kicked on and got the race won.
“He’s improving and he’s by Saddex – the same sire as Editeur Du Gite. He was getting beaten off marks of 120 and now he’s rated 160 – I’m not saying this lad is that level, but he is improving.
“We could look at the Kingmaker but there is a race at Lingfield as well (the Godstone Handicap Chase on Friday 20th January), which we could consider. He’s done that nicely enough but I’m not the trainer, I’ll see what dad says but sometimes you’ve got to strike when the iron is hot.”