A career-best double for young jockey, on a horse he produced at the start: ‘An amazing day that meant so much’

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  • Warwickshire trainer Dan Skelton’s team enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon on Saturday (13 January) racking up an outstanding career best-equalling six winners across three racecourses.

    At Warwick, Dan’s younger brother Harry Skelton was in the saddle to triumph on Etalon in the two-runner novices’ chase, followed by 5/4F Grey Dawning in the Grade Two Trustatrader Hampton Novices’ Chase. This dual bumper winner has a huge engine and was racking up his second win since switching to fences for owner Robert Kirkland.

    Meanwhile at Wetherby, Mount Tempest landed the William Hill Epic Value Handicap Chase under Fergus Gillard, while Ben Sutton conjured his fourth winning performance out of Santos Blue in the William Hill Pick Your Places Handicap Hurdle.

    Not to be outdone in the team’s tally of successes, stable jockey Tristan Durrell’s smile lit up Kempton Park as he enjoyed the greatest day of his flourishing career with his first winning double. He opened proceedings with victory on Flegmatik in the New Bet-In-Race With Coral Handicap Chase, and followed up on 33/1 shot Jay Jay Reilly, named after his owner John J Reilly, in the 19-runner Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle.

    “It was an amazing day and meant so much – I’m at Dan’s every day and we’re a close-knit team,” Tristan tells H&H. “It means so much to do it for the team.”

    While he was in action at the Surrey track, Tristan wasn’t able to watch much of the racing elsewhere but he kept track of all of Team Skelton’s results coming through on his phone.

    “When I went out for my prize giving for the Lanzarote, they announced that they’d just made it six winners, so that was a really good moment,” says Tristan.

    Jockey Tristan Durrell: “I think Flegmatik loved running off with me!”

    Tristan describes the nine-year-old chestnut Flegmatik as being on “a going day” in Kempton’s 3m chase.

    “I think Flegmatik loved running off with me most of the way round!” he says. “He was enjoying himself so much and jumping so well. He jumped me to the front, perhaps a bit sooner than ideal, but it obviously worked, so you can’t complain about that.”

    The dust had barely settled before Tristan rode an absolute masterclass to guide 33/1 shot Jay Jay Reilly to glory in the £100,000 Lanzarote Hurdle, punching the air in delight after crossing the line. Dan may have been on holiday for the momentous day, but Jay Jay’s winning owner John Reilly acknowledged being part of “a brilliant day for the Skeltons”.

    “Jay Jay Reilly had been a bit out of form this season, but we thought he’d improve back over hurdles and he’s been so fresh and well at home that we thought he’d run a big race,” says Tristan. “It was a nice surprise that he won, though.

    “I couldn’t believe he was travelling so well turning in – I tried to hold on to him for a bit, but at some point you have to move on and try to win the race, so I was just glad he stuck his neck out all the way to the line.”

    From the start: “We always knew he had a big race in him; he’s got his day”

    “I actually broke Jay Jay Reilly in with Nick Pearce – he was a great help when I started at Dan’s and gave me rides point-to-pointing,” reveals Tristan Durrell. “We used to break the horses together and Jay Jay was one of our graduates, so it’s nice he’s gone on and won a big race – we always knew he had a big one in him! So he got his day.”

    Tristan says he has wanted to ride for “as long as I can remember” and caught the racing bug when he got his first racing pony.

    “After that I was mad keen to be a jockey,” he says, his parents also having been involved in racing and pointing and his grandfather Ian Cox was a clerk of the scales and “loved racing”.

    “Saturday was by far the best day of my career so far – it was my first time riding a double and on a day like that for the team, it was just unreal.”

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