HORSE RACING - Bridget Andrews talks-up brother-in-law trainer Dan Skelton's chances at this year's Cheltenham Festival - The Redditch Standard
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15th Aug, 2022

HORSE RACING - Bridget Andrews talks-up brother-in-law trainer Dan Skelton's chances at this year's Cheltenham Festival

Aaron Sutcliffe 14th Mar, 2022 Updated: 14th Mar, 2022

CHELTENHAM Festival winning rider Bridget Andrews has talked-up brother-in-law trainer Dan Skelton’s chances at this year’s event.

Andrews is married to Dan’s brother Harry and has previous success at The Festival having ridden Mohaayed to a shock victory in the County Hurdle in 2018.

And Dan, who has stables at Lodge Hill in Alcester, is hoping for more success at Cheltenham this week with Nube Negra, Shan Blue and Protektorat some of his leading contenders.

Jockey Andrews believes all three horses have a great chance of crossing the line first and has first-hand experience of riding atop the trio.

Andrews was speaking to Boylesports ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.

Andrews said: “Protektorat seems in great form ahead of the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“I was lucky enough to ride him at Aintree the last time, because it was the same day as [the] Tingle Creek.

“He put up a really good performance off top-weight in the Paddy Power on his first run of the season, and then [we] stepped him up in trip at Aintree.

“There is no guarantee he is going to see out the Gold Cup trip, but the way he went through the race at Aintree; he did a lot wrong, he was very keen and maybe I made him keener than he needed to be. He did a few things wrong that day, and he came home seriously strong.

“There wasn’t a lot in the race, but he couldn’t have done it any more impressively. He loves to be fresh, he’s been flying at home.

“We could have maybe got a run into him between Aintree and here, but Dan was keen to have him as ready as he can be for this day. I think he is the young, up and coming horse.”

And Andrews insists Champion Chase hopeful Nube Negra is also likely to be a serious contender at this year’s Festival.

Andrews added: “Everything has gone right for Champion Chase contender Nube Negra.

“I gave him his last piece of work, he worked with Shan Blue – he’s in great form. He won the Shloer [Chase] first time out this year, and then he went to the Tingle Creek.

“Looking back, we shouldn’t have ran him there, but on the back of the Shloer we couldn’t really not – he was going to go off favourite, so we had to have a go.

“Nube Negra is a horse that we know is best fresh. A strongly-run race on decent ground will suit him down to the ground.

“Everything else has gone right for him – I think last year, they didn’t go that quick and they were in a bit of a heap turning in.  He was a bit slow at the back of the last and didn’t quite get going in time. I think he’s got a great chance.”

Andrews is hopeful that Ryanair Chase prospect Shan Blue will return to his best form after a fall in the Charlie Hall Chase back in October last year.

She said: “Shan Blue looks great ahead of the Ryanair Chase.

“We run Shan Blue – he hasn’t been seen since he came down in the Charlie Hall Chase.

“He looked better than ever that day, and was going to win by half the track, but he came down three out. He took a really heavy fall, we had to give him the time he needed. Dan and his owner, Colm Donlon, both agreed that we give him the time and bring him back for the spring.

“Shan Blue is in really good form, he looks great. He won’t be ridden as aggressively as he was ridden at The Festival last year, but I think he’s got a great chance.”

And Andrews also previewed Dan’s other yard runners who are racing at The Festival: Nuse Susan, Doctor Parnassus and West Cork.

She added: “Nurse Susan is as nice a horse as I’ve sat on.

“We run Nurse Susan in the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. She’s very lightly raced, she won her first two and she didn’t come off the bridle.

“She then went to Lingfield, at their big meeting – that’s the first time she’s had a proper race. She got beat by a horse called Love Envoi, who I think is a very good horse in soft ground.

“Whether she’s ready to win at the festival this year, I don’t know, but I ride her every day and I do think in time she’s a really smart horse. She’s as nice a horse as I’ve ever sat on.

“Doctor Parnassus runs in the Triumph Hurdle. We also run a horse called Doctor Parnassus in this. He was only about a 70-rated flat horse, but he’s taken to hurdling really well.

“We didn’t have that much expectation going to Ascot the first day, but he won really well. Then Dan went to step him up in trip the next day, just to make sure he was going to see out the Triumph [Hurdle] trip, and get up the hill well.

“So, he stepped up in trip at Taunton – did that really well. Dan actually called him an ‘add milk and stir’ juvenile – which I presume means very straightforward. Others have probably got stronger form, but at a bigger price, I think we’ll be there, or thereabouts.

“West Cork is in really good form ahead of the County Hurdle.

“We run West Cork. He won the Greatwood [Hurdle] off the back of a two-year lay-off – a really good performance. He then went to Ascot, didn’t back it up, but I think we can put a line through that.

“He came out with a really nasty overreach – actually nearly pulled the bowl of his heel off, so he’s got excuses for that. He probably put it all in, in the Greatwood, and that maybe came a bit quick. He’s in really good form.”

And Andrews is hopeful she will be allowed to ride Faivoir at this year’s Festival, having won five out of six races when riding him.

She said: “We might also run a horse called Faivoir – I’m hoping I might be allowed to ride him in the County Hurdle. I’ve actually ridden him six times, and won five on him.

“He ran at Kelso, in the Morebattle [Hurdle]- he ran really well. He’s probably too exposed to go and win a race like this but he always gives his running and I’ll be glad to have another go.”

The jockey also spoke about the joy of riding her first Cheltenham winner and hopes to repeat her success again in the future.

Andrews said: “Beating my husband Harry was great.

“It was a shock [to ride a Cheltenham Festival winner on Mohaayed]. To be honest, we didn’t want to run Mohaayed, his owners wanted to go.

“We said he’d hate the ground, he’s got no chance, Harry got off him and rode Spiritofthegames. I got in the paddock that day and his owner said to me ‘I think he’s got a great chance you’re going to have the best day of your life – good luck!’.

“Yeah right… No chance! My instructions from Dan were go out there, have a nice time, keep out of trouble, don’t get hurt!

“In a County Hurdle, it’s not the easiest thing to do. I jumped off handy, I was widest of all, I had a clear trip round and he stormed up the hill.

“I think the first thing I said to Harry [Skelton] was: ‘I’m sorry, you probably should have been on him’. I’m so glad I’ve had one festival winner – I’d love to have another one.”

Bet on Horse Racing

Protektorat – 8/1

Nube Negra – 12/1

Shan Blue – 15/2

Nurse Susan – 16/1

Doctor Parnassus – 14/1

West Cork – 8/1

Faivoir – 25/1

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