Dan Skelton's Cheltenham crackers - a close look at the trainer's festival winners

Warwickshire wonder brothers Dan and Harry Skelton have come from solid equestrian stock and look to be carving a new racing dynasty at their Midlands stable.

The sons of Olympic gold medalist show jumper Nick Skelton don't have to look far for help schooling their team of jumpers. What's more, the trainer/jockey duo have arrived at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival with a strong hand.

Here, we take a look at Team Skelton's Cheltenham Festival winners to date - a select group of victories that will only grow in the years to come.

Superb Story: Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2016)

Harry Skelton celebrates on top of Superb Story at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival
Harry Skelton celebrates on top of Superb Story at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival

It truly was a superb story for Team Skelton to pick up their first Cheltenham Festival winner just three years after Dan Skelton gained his training licence.

You'd have forgiven jockey Harry Skelton to have been impatient for a first Team Skelton win at the Festival in the Vincent O'Brien County hurdle. But, he judged his ride to perfection and prevailed by two and a half lengths from Fethard Player.

The final hurdle was omitted due to a falling horse but the young jockey kept his cool in the maroon silks and led the 8-1 shot for a stirring victory.

Superb Story racing to victory in the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle
Superb Story racing to victory in the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle

"I'm so thankful to Dan and to my dad for their belief in me," Harry Skelton told the independent.co.uk. "I was in front a minute too soon but I saw we weren't jumping the last so I thought 'right, let's go."

It was an emotional moment for the Skelton stable and particularly so for Nick Skelton who conceded that his heroics in the saddle paled in significance to his son's achievement.

"Harry said when I won the gold medal was the proudest day of his life but for me when they won there [Cheltenham] that was the proudest day of my life," Nick Skelton told horseandhound.co.uk

Mohaayed: Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (2018)

Jockey Bridget Andrews, and horse Mohaayed celebrate winning the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
Jockey Bridget Andrews, and horse Mohaayed celebrate winning the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle

Team Skelton are more than happy to spread winners around the family and this time, Bridget Andrews surpassed her real-life partner Harry Skelton to spring a 33-1 surprise in the 2018 County Hurdle.

Harry Skelton's Spiritofthegames started at a shorter 12/1 price for the two mile, one furlong contest but it was Bridget Andrews, the stable's second jockey, vying for first place over the last in the Cheltenham mud.

While others floundered, Andrews kept her mount dead-centre of the leading pack and the handy position enabled her to push Mohaayed to a smart two and three-quarter length win over Remiluc in second.

Mohaayed crosses the finish line to win the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
Mohaayed crosses the finish line to win the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle

Harry Skelton was left with the not-too-shabby consolation of a celebratory kiss for his soon to be wife but the plaudits were all with Andrews for a superbly judged ride.

"When I started riding I always said I'd never go conditional because it's so hard, but when Dan offered me the job I couldn't turn it down," Andrews told racingpost.com. "I might be biased, but I think I have the best conditional's job in the country. I couldn't be happier."

Roksana: OLBG Mares' Hurdle (2019)

Roksana was a 10/1 shot at the OLBG Mares' Hurdle
Roksana was a 10/1 shot at the OLBG Mares' Hurdle

Every stable needs some luck and Team Skelton were given a gateaux-sized slice in the 2019 OLBG Mares' Hurdle when Benie Des Dieux fell at the final flight.

That handed the initiative to Harry Skelton on 10/1 shot Roksana and the seven year-old hung on gamely to win by two and a quarter lengths from Stormy Ireland.

The fact that the Skeltons had Roksana in contention with the heavyweight Willie Mullins trained Benie Des Dieux was an achievement in itself. They also saw off a pair of the County Carlow giant's runners in Stormy Ireland and Good Thyne Tara in second and third respectively.

Jockey Harry Skelton celebrates winning the OLBG Mares' Hurdle with Roksana
Jockey Harry Skelton celebrates winning the OLBG Mares' Hurdle with Roksana

The win was a David and Goliath catapult to the head of the Mullins outfit from the upstart Skeltons and a sign they weren't scared of taking on the big boys, even with the mares.

Harry Skelton told timeform.com: "It means the world to have a winner here. Nobody is afraid of saying that these are the four days when it really, really matters. We have a long old year and this is what you work for. This is why I do it, for days like this. I have a dream job and am in a very lucky position."

Ch'tibello: Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (2019)

Ch'tibello ridden by Harry Skelton on their way to victory of the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
Ch'tibello ridden by Harry Skelton on their way to victory of the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle

Having won the County Hurdle in 2016 and 2018 it was logical that Team Skelton would target the same race in 2019 with the stamina soaked Ch'tibello.

Harry Skelton was happy to hold up his 12/1 chance Ch'tibello and let stablemate and former winner Mohayyed take up the running.

From two out, Skelton began to weave his way through the 24 runner field, taking to the inside and gradually emerging as a contender in the dazzling pink and black checked cap.

Skelton engaged in a thrilling four horse tussle over the last, calling on Ch'tibello's finishing speed to drive him out for a well-earned one and a half length success over We Have A Dream.

Ch'tibello ridden by Harry Skelton on their way to victory of the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle during Gold Cup Day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse
Ch'tibello ridden by Harry Skelton on their way to victory of the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle during Gold Cup Day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse

The second placed horse was trained by Nicky Henderson but it's unlikely the legendary Seven Barrows handler's dream was to see Team Skelton nick the sort of handicap his stable normally had sown up.

"The man I ride for is a very good trainer and just as good a man," Harry Skelton told racingtv.com. "He told me we were in the right place with this horse today. He told me to go out and enjoy it and the horse gave me a great feel. He was gutsy at the end."

These are the family values that will stand Team Skelton in good stead to take further top races at the Cheltenham Festival as the 2020's kick into gear.

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