Protektorat Warms Up for Gold Cup with Strong Performance - The Redditch Standard

Protektorat Warms Up for Gold Cup with Strong Performance

Redditch Editorial 1st Feb, 2024   0

Local trainer Dan Skelton will have been delighted with the performance of his star chaser Protektorat, who finished second in the valuable Fleur De Lys Chase at the Winter Million Meeting. The two-time Grade One winner came home just over two lengths behind L’Homme Presse.

Skelton, who is the son of former Olympic medalist Nick Skelton, trains Protektorat for former football manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The British chaser led the field for the majority of the 2m6f at Lingfield and he was looking on course for another major win. However, he was just unable to match his rival’s pace in the run to the finish line.

This season will be Protektorat’s third shot at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He was third in the race in 2022, his best performance yet in the Blue Riband event. A year later, he had to settle for fifth place. Skelton, a trainer who regularly has runners in the Grand National, may then consider the Aintree feature for his horse a month later.

Skelton will be delighted with the start he has made this season. He has some strong novices, like Let It Rain, who will head to the major meetings at the back end of the campaign with a strong chance of coming out on top.




L’Homme Presse Makes Winning Return

The Fleur De Lys Chase was the highlight of the final day of the Winter Million Meeting at Lingfield Park. Victory for L’Homme Presse now puts him in the picture for the Cheltenham Gold Cup too.


 

The Lingfield winner was making his first appearance on the track in 391 days, but it did not show at the Surrey-based racecourse. Venetia Williams’ runner tracked Protektorat for the majority of the race and his class was evident in the closing stages.

The Gold Cup contender is already a Cheltenham Festival winner as he won the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in 2022. Since then, he has prevailed in two of his four races, including the Grade Three Rehearsal Handicap Chase.

Williams’ runner was also travelling well in the King George VI Chase in 2022 before stumbling after the final obstacle and unseating his rider, Charlie Deutsch. At the age of just nine, his connections will be hoping his best performances on the track will still be ahead of him.

Galopin Des Champs Remains the Horse to Beat

Irish chaser Galopin Des Champs won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2023 by seven lengths to capture the the sport’s biggest price. He powered up the hill at Cheltenham to stretch away from the King George VI Chase winner Bravemansgame.

As of the 22nd of January, Willie Mullins’ runner is the evens favourite in the Cheltenham Festival odds for the feature race of the week. He is looking to become the first horse since Al Boum Photo in 2020 to defend his crown in the 3m2½f contest.

It has been a mixed season for Galopin Des Champs so far. He was beaten on his opening start of the campaign in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase. Fastorslow got the better of him at Punchestown for the second straight race.

 

Galopin Des Champs bounced back to success in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown during their festive programme. The Gold Cup winner dominated that contest, winning by a margin of 27 lengths. That performance puts him back on track for a reappearance at the Cheltenham Festival.

New Potential Star of 3m Division

There will be several new challengers in the Cheltenham Gold Cup field this year so there is a good chance there will be a new star of the division. Fastorslow is set to tackle the best 3m chasers in the UK and Ireland. He is bidding for his third Grade One triumph in the last 12 months, as he has already won the Punchestown Gold Cup and John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.

Gerri Colombe is another horse who will be making the trip across the Irish Sea. He has won five of his seven races over fences, including three victories at Grade One level. Gordon Elliott’s runner began his campaign by winning the Champion Chase at Down Royal, beating Envoi Allen.

In the UK, Shishkin is one of the highest-rated horses in the sport. The majority of his success so far has come in the 2m chase division, but he is now looking to prove himself over 3m and beyond. Victory in the Gold Cup would be his biggest achievement so far.

The 2024 Cheltenham Festival begins on Tuesday, 12th of March, with the feature race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, set for the fourth and final day of the meeting on Friday, 15th of March.

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