Dan Skelton: The sport needs glory horses *H&H VIP*

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  • It is all spot-on at the moment for us. The horses are in good form, they’ve come out the other side of the flu jabs, and we had a winner with Aintree My Dream on Saturday.

    There are a couple of important weekends ahead of Cheltenham where some of our horses will be having a prep run, and then it’s all eyes ahead and hoping to keep out of trouble until the Festival.

    Festival pointers

    Altior was very impressive at the weekend, winning by 13 lengths. However, I think the comparisons to Sprinter Sacre are premature. He still has a lot to prove, including winning the Arkle. It’s always great to have exciting horses, but everyone wants to compare them to past heroes straight away. They want Nicky Henderson to say the horse is the best he’s ever trained. Sprinter did unusual things, so we’ll wait to see about Altior.

    It’s hugely important to have stars like that — people want to see the glory horses. It’s the same in all sports. Barcelona is such a popular football team as it’s made up of brilliant players and everyone wants to watch them. Likewise, fans love the Sprinter Sacres and Denmans of the game so it’s great to showcase them.

    I thought Native River would win the Denman Chase, and he did. Bristol De Mai was possibly showing the effects of a hard race last time out, but I was impressed with Paul Nicholls’ horse Le Mercurey. He could even be a Grand National contender.

    The Gold Cup looks pretty open now, too. Thistlecrack has shown a bit of exposure having been beaten by Many Clouds at Cheltenham and both he and his stablemate Native River have chances.

    Girls should go for it

    We are big supporters of female riders at our yard. Bridget Andrews (interview, p22) has had many winners for us. Trainers should use the best riders, regardless of their gender, but it’s true that men do get more opportunities in racing. This new ruling by France Galop [of giving female riders in France a 4.4lb weight allowance (news, p6)] has caused a lot of discussion, but I’m in favour of it and think female jockeys should take advantage of it. I do think 4.4lb is actually too much though, and I can’t see it lasting for too long before it will be called an unfair advantage, so they need to make the most of it. I imagine they’ll ride loads of winners, become in high demand and then there will be complaints.

    I don’t think the girls should take it as a slight though. They should go for it and prove the doubters wrong. The sport should be judged on winners, not on anything else, so if you’re handed an advantage, grasp it.

    Racing in city centres?

    There have been talks about having racing in central London. It’s a novel idea and certainly worth a go. I’m for anything that gets the sport in the general public’s view.
    Look at the popularity of the White Turf events at St Moritz, for example. Racing on the snow is part of Switzerland’s heritage and is really popular. The best horses don’t run there, but everyone loves to watch it — it’s different and spectacular.

    If they had a series that was rolled out globally with racing in city centres it could bring in more revenue and interest. Racing needs to try out new things and support innovators who dare to branch out of conservative thinking.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 February 2017