Shan Blue takes Kauto Star honours
Dan Skelton’s six-year-old was winning his third race in succession since beginning his chasing career this season, being up with the pace throughout and often jumping with great fluency to prevail by three and three-quarter lengths from The Big Breakaway.
The 7-4 favourite, ridden by the trainer’s brother Harry, was just a length in front at the last so needed another good jump – and duly got one, while runner-up The Big Breakaway made a mistake and stumbled on landing.
Shan Blue then stayed on impressively – with If The Cap Fits, who had struggled to stay in touch early on, rallying late to snatch third.
Skelton said: “When you need him for a big jump to maintain a lead or maintain an advantage in a race, he is there for you.
“The reason he is a good horse is that he jumps well. He was better than average as a hurdler, but not by much – now he is a chaser you are seeing a really good horse and that is because he is a good jumper.”
Looking ahead, Skelton said: “I think an RSA could be a real stretch for him. I don’t think he is a slogger and I think today proved that, as he was very nimble at his jumps. I think with that in mind you have got to be mindful that coming back in trip is probably more sensible.
“He will be entered in both (Marsh Novices’ Chase and RSA) and we will go to the Scilly Isles perhaps on the way.
“He has got a Grade One penalty now, so we don’t need to be shouldering him with massive penalties in normal novice races and at the end of the day he has proved he can do it.”
Of The Big Breakaway, Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father Colin, said: “He ran an absolute blinder. Robbie (Power) was delighted with him and he learnt more today than he did in his first two runs over fences.
“Robbie doesn’t think he would have beaten the winner if he had winged the last as he was having to stretch to get there.
“Cheltenham obviously plays to his strengths and he looked more of a galloper there, so we will work back from the RSA. Whether we run again or not, I’m not sure. He jumped at pace today and he got in tight to a few of the last four fences, but he was clever at them and that is part of learning.”