Harry Skelton Profile
|Born||Sep 01, 1989|
Through the shadow of his double gold medal-winning father, Harry Skelton, alongside his brother Dan, is forging a legacy as one of Britain's top jockeys.
Harry Skelton is building both a reputation as a top jockey and a new racing dynasty with his trainer brother Dan in the Warwickshire countryside.
Hot in pursuit of Champion Jockey Brian Hughes, Skelton would be top of the 2020/21 jockey's table if it came to prize money, highlighting the assault of the Skelton stable on valuable races.
Superb Story proved an apt winning name for the horse that won the 2016 Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at Cheltenham for the fledgling Harry and Dan Skelton racing combination.
Alongside being stable jockey for his brother Dan at their Lodge Hill operation, Skelton has racked up several major wins for other yards. In 2009 he became the youngest ever jockey to win the Irish Grand National on Niche Market for Bob Buckler.
Paul Nicholls is known to call upon Skelton too and the pair linked up to take the 2020 Queen Mother Champion Chase with Politologue at the Cheltenham Festival. They then followed up with a win in the 2020 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
Having ridden over 900 winners and counting, Skelton looks set to be a contender for Champion Jockey for years to come, thanks to an innate ability in the saddle and top rides delivered by Team Skelton.
His equestrian family
The Skelton family is synonymous with equestrian gold after Harry's father Nick, a champion show jumper, won gold in the team jumping event for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics. He then went on to win individual gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
However, Harry and Dan Skelton had a challenging childhood as their mother Sarah had a struggle with alcohol and sadly died when Harry was nine.
"Mum had a massive problem with drink and it was hugely destructive. It was tough as kids because we spotted it and banged the drum and no one believed us. She wasn't a bad person and tried her best, she just had a problem. In the end it was what got her" Dan Skelton told dailymail.co.uk.
Early racing career
Harry threw himself into riding, earning a role at the Richard Hannon flat racing setup but like many jockeys became too heavy for the flat racing game. Instead, he joined the Ditcheat stables of top jumps racing trainer Paul Nicholls where his brother Dan was assistant.
"After a year with Mr Hannon, I got a bit heavier and he thought the best thing I could do was go to Mr Nicholls and see how I got on" Skelton told standard.co.uk.
Skelton won his first jumps race on a racecourse proper in October 2007 aboard Temper Lad for Jimmy Frost in a conditional jockeys' selling handicap hurdle.
Although hardly prolific in his early career, Skelton did strike up a good connection with the Bob Buckler trained Niche Market. The pair won the BGC Silver Cup chase at Ascot in December 2008 and then went on to take the 2009 Irish Grand National.
Skelton produced 33/1 outsider Niche Market to win by two lengths from Church Island to become the youngest ever winning jockey in the Fairyhouse event.
Further reasonable successes came in the form of a Totescoop6 Heroes Handicap Hurdle on Beshabar for Nicholls in 2010 but by 2012/13, winners were drying up for Skelton, riding just eight that season.
The Skelton brothers partnership
Fortunately for Skelton, his brother Dan was able to breathe life into his brother's career in the saddle by leaving Nicholls to set up his own national hunt training operation in January 2013.
It was clear that Harry was going to be an important part of the new Team Skelton stables at Alcester in the Midlands.
"Obviously Harry is family and someone who, it goes without saying, I trust implicitly. At this early stage he is going to be integral to a lot of areas of the business" Dan Skelton told theguardian.com.
Success kicked in fairly early for Team Skelton as Willow's Saviour won the Grade 3 Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot in December 2013 with Harry Skelton up top.
Skelton's number of winners began to creep up as the family stable became established with 26 in 2013/14 then 55 in 2014/15.
Cheltenham festival triumph
What the fledgling Skelton stable needed however was a Cheltenham Festival winner and they got their first in March 2016 with Superb Story.
Starting at a price of 8/1, Superb Story came on strong to win by a good two and a half lengths in the Vincent O'Brien Handicap Hurdle. All Yours, running for the Paul Nicholls yard, for which both Skelton brothers had worked, could only finish 12th.
"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," an overjoyed Nick Skelton told horseandhound.co.uk of his sons' achievement.
Team Skelton returned to the Cheltenham Festival in March 2019 to target the same race, by then rebranded as the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle. The result was little different however as Harry Skelton produced Ch'tibello to win by one and a half lengths from Nicky Henderson's We Have A Dream.
Skelton also rode 10/1 chance Roksana to victory in the OLGB Mares' Hurdle that year, clinching a first Grade One win for the up and coming Alcester outfit.
Further lucrative wins
Despite facing stiff competition from more established yards such as Paul Nicholls' and Nicky Henderson's, Team Skelton can be found consistently towards the head of the table for prize money earnings.
Harry Skelton followed up Cheltenham Festival success with further Grade One wins in the 2019 Chepstow Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle and the 2020 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown on Allmankind.
Victories in the 2020 Kauto Star Novice's Chase on Shan Blue and the Kingmaker at local track Warwick warms Skelton up for a crack at the Cheltenham Festival 2021, for which Team Skelton have a number of decent chances.
The combination of the talented jockey Harry Skelton, the training nous of his brother Dan and the jumping knowledge of his father Nick makes Team Skelton a serious proposition as a jumps racing yard to follow for years to come.
However, the title of Champion Jockey still evades Skelton. "I haven't fulfilled what I want to fulfil - I want to be champion jockey, without that there will always be a sense of small failure." Skelton told thesun.co.uk.
He remains almost neck and neck with Harry Cobden and reigning Champion jumps jockey Brian Hughes at the business end of the 2020/21 season.
Skelton's father is world-class show jumper Nick Skelton. His brother Dan is head trainer for Team Skelton at the Lodge Hill stables in Alcester, Warwickshire.
Skelton's mother Sarah sadly died in 2006.
He married fellow jumps jockey Bridget Andrews in 2019. "When racing is off and we have a free day, we do like to try and get away. We have two whippets and we take them off to Broadway Tower normally and go for a walk" Skelton told thesun.co.uk of his down time with Andrews.
Harry Skelton News
- Mar 31, 2022