Dan Skelton: Keeping the fire burning *H&H VIP*

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  • We have been ticking over nicely over the past weeks and have picked up two top two-mile hurdles with North Hill Harvey and Ch’tibello but man of the moment Colin Tizzard is in flying form.

    He’s had a great time with Cue Card, winning his third Betfair Chase, and then to win the Hennessy with Native River is a serious achievement. Winning is what it’s all about. He’ll be thinking about taking the trainers’ championship, as we all do, but it won’t be his sole focus. He’s a live contender for sure, though.

    Thistlecrack put in a foot-perfect round in the Grade Two at Newbury at the weekend. Cheltenham second time over fences is a challenge for any horse; it’s a trappy old place, but Tom Scudamore got him into a rhythm on Saturday at Newbury, and when he let him go he really went for it. I don’t think we’ll see his ability challenged for some time.

    Native River ran a good race to win the Hennessy; he’s a tough, hardy horse. Don’t underestimate what it takes to win a Hennessy — this was champion jockey Richard Johnson’s first success in it.

    Healthy horses means winners

    A lot was made of Colin moving yards, and crediting that for his change in results. Environment is a big part of what makes up a good yard. We spend a lot of time ensuring our horses are stabled in a clean environment, safeguarding them for racing. Ill health is the biggest restriction to performance. We’ve had a good time of it in October and November — we are ahead of last year in terms of prize money, so we want to keep the fire burning to get to 100 winners.

    Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Ch’tibello ran very well under my brother Harry at Haydock to win a Grade Two against stiff company, including My Tent Or Yours and Melodic Rendezvous. That followed on from North Hill Harvey in the Greatwood at Cheltenham. We have plenty of Graded horses with runs coming up so there’s a lot to look forward to.

    The Challow Hurdle after Christmas is what we’re really hoping for though. Robin Roe is being aimed there and it would be fantastic to get a Grade One win.

    We are into the final few weeks of Channel 4 Racing, before ITV takes over the sport’s coverage in January. Channel 4 has done a great job, but a change could be a catalyst for growth and new interest and I’m looking forward to seeing how they do it. It could reinvigorate the public image of racing, and show a fresh outlook. The team they have in place should make it very different, too.

    A shake-up for showjumping

    It was voted at the FEI General Assembly that there will now be three rather than four members on an Olympic team for equestrian disciplines. This has caused some debate within the industry, given that countries such as France and Germany voted against, while Great Britain and Canada voted in favour.

    It probably makes sense for showjumping. Taking someone who is not guaranteed to perform well is a gambling tactic. Now you will have to make every person count, there’s no room for error.

    From the  spectators’ point of view, it can drag on when you’re watching five hours of jumping and the fourth member of the team has to go. So this should increase the quality of the product. It’s a mainstream sport and shown globally — I’m sure organisers will ensure that everyone is top-class so there isn’t any untoward drama or low-quality jumping.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 1 December 2016