Dan Skelton: Cheltenham in our sights *H&H VIP*

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  • Now we’re into the New Year, all eyes look towards Cheltenham. It’s still a bit in the distance but it’s more obviously on the horizon. We have a good team heading in that direction, too, which we’re looking forward to.

    We’ll have runners at Doncaster rather than Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham on 28 January though. I think the expected ground at Cheltenham at that time of year is very hard work and there’s very competitive racing. I have nothing earmarked for it, however if something suited we’d go, but it’s a hard track at the best of times, so we’re happier to wait for March.

    Ups and downs

    Our New Year’s period showed the highs and lows of racing. The highlight was certainly Superb Story winning at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day. He now heads to Cheltenham for the Champion Hurdle, hopefully.

    The day before, however, Robin Roe fell at Newbury and chipped a bone in the back of his knee and will be out for a while. I had held such expectations for him, so to pick up an injury like this is a cruel blow and extremely disappointing.

    Proud of Dad

    It was great to be a part of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards and we’re extremely proud of Dad.

    To finish third is a great achievement and to come away with a trophy is amazing. We are thankful to everyone who voted for him — including Andy’s wife Kim apparently!

    Kempton reaction

    My immediate reaction when I heard about the potential loss of Kempton was “Oh no”, as it should be. We don’t want to lose that track; however, we don’t know whether it’s good or bad for the sport long-term yet.

    The Jockey Club announced that it was planning on selling the ground to the local council to make space for 500 houses. There has been a lot of protest, but on the flip side the investment could be good for the sport.

    The Jockey Club says it plans to invest £500m into racing in the next 10 years. Even if the course closed for all the right reasons, it would still be a shame as we have fewer and fewer of these top-class venues, and Kempton is unique in its make-up and ground conditions.

    If it does go, then I would agree with Paul Nicholls’ comments that the King George VI Chase should be moved to Ascot rather than Sandown. Ascot is a massive venue; it can more than handle the amount of racegoers that turn up on Boxing Day, and would be able to make space for even more.

    I’m biased and would say Cheltenham is the best track in the UK but really Ascot is the showpiece, with an amazing stadium, state-of-the-art facilities, and plenty of money has been invested into the course and ground.

    Levy change

    The government announced the changes to the levy last week, although it still needs to be approved by the European Commission. The current system, from 1961, was outdated, with offshore companies paying a voluntary contribution to the levy.

    As from April, all those who take bets on British racing from customers based in Britain will have to pay 10% of the gross profits from racing bets, above the first £500,000 made.

    This change was always expected and now it’s arrived. In my opinion, the change will make things more transparent for everyone, and draw a neat line under it all. After all, bookmakers are big supporters and sponsors of our sport.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 19 January 2017