- Skelton acknowledges underwhelming early season form from his top horses
- Trainer remains upbeat on Protektorat’s Betfair Chase chances
- Bravesmansgame is ante-post favourite
Trainer Dan Skelton has voiced apprehension regarding the form of some of his prominent horses in their early season outings. Nevertheless, he remains optimistic about the current second favourite Protektorat’s chances as the eight-year-old gears up for a title defence in Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.
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Skelton confident Protektorat is in top condition to make a return
Protektorat, returning from a 253-day break, delivered a standout performance last year to clinch victory in the Grade 1 event. Skelton is confident that the horse is in prime condition for his comeback, describing him as “cherry-ripe” for the challenge. However, the competition is formidable, with King George VI Chase winner Bravemansgame among the likely contenders. Notably, Shishkin is expected to skip the event and instead participate in the 1965 Chase at Ascot on the same day.
While Protektorat is priced at 6/4 with bet365, Skelton acknowledges the stiff competition, particularly with Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame being the even-money favourite. Despite Protektorat slipping from the headline to page two in terms of favouritism, Skelton remains unfazed, emphasising his belief in the horse’s capabilities.
Skelton does, however, highlight a concern with his yard’s performance, noting that they are experiencing their second-worst strike rate (14.5%) in the last seven years for horses returning from layoffs exceeding 150 days. The only worse period was during the Covid-affected timeframe in 2020. Skelton remains puzzled by the challenge of getting horses to showcase their best form on their first runs back, despite observing positive signs during training.
Expressing confidence in Protektorat’s readiness, Skelton hopes for a replication of last year’s success. Despite the odds and competition, he maintains a focus on maximising his horses’ potential and encourages patience, believing that, in time, the challenges faced by his yard will be overcome. In summary, Skelton is optimistic about Protektorat’s chances in the Betfair Chase, acknowledging challenges in the overall form of returning horses but remaining steadfast in his belief in their potential.
Skelton said: “I’m adamant he’s as good as he was last year and I just hope we get a repeat of what we saw then.
“We were odds-on favourites, but Paul has confirmed Bravemansgame and now we’re not favourites. We’ve gone from the main headline to page two for the weekend, but that’s not a problem.
He continued: “I’ve had a big problem getting these horses who’ve had time off to show their best on their first runs back. Quite simply, it hasn’t happened and I can’t work it out. What I see at home is that it’s there, but we just haven’t seen it at 2.15 in the afternoon. But I’ve seen it in the morning.
“You have to bear with them and it’ll all come right. We’re not doing anything different to what we did last year and I suppose it’s just sometimes how the cookie crumbles.”
Bravesmansgame is the current ante-post favourite, ahead of Protektorat . Bettors need to assess whether Skelton will make good on his promise to have Protektorat in top form as the horse could offer good value compared to the favourite. While Bravesmansgame is evens with bet365 and 5/6 with SpreadEx, Protektorat is 6/4 with both bookies. Royale Pagaille could be a decent each-way bet, priced at 7/1 with Unibet, Betway, William Hill and SpreadEx.
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