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Skelton relying on Sud missile to strike crucial blow

Skelton relying on Sud missile to strike crucial blow
Skelton relying on Sud missile to strike crucial blow

Dan Skelton is banking on a big run from L’Eau Du Sud in the Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle to keep him in with a chance of claiming a first trainers’ title.

Runner-up in two of the most competitive handicaps of the season, the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, the six-year-old has been aimed at this ever since.

Cheltenham week went swimmingly for Skelton and co-owners Sir Alex Ferguson and John Hales, but the feeling was L’Eau Du Sud was mugged by the Willie Mullins-trained Ebor winner Absurde.

“He’s in good order and this is the race we’ve had in mind since Cheltenham, when he was second in the County Hurdle,” said Skelton.

L'Eau du Sud jumped the last in front at Cheltenham but was caught close home
L’Eau Du Sud jumped the last in front at Cheltenham but was caught close home (Steven Paston/PA)

“That was a very good run considering Absurde came from nowhere and showed great Flat speed late on.

“The ground will be perfect for him, the track is no issue, he travels very well and I’d say he’s a very big player, but the prices reflect that.

“If we’ve any chance of overhauling Willie, we need L’Eau Du Sud to figure pretty well, to be honest.

“It looked like we had it won at Cheltenham, but (Paul) Townend had different ideas and used all the Flat speed, so fair play to them, they picked up on the day but we’ll be looking to collect on Saturday.”

Skelton is battling with his old boss Paul Nicholls and Irish champion trainer Mullins, who runs Westport Cove, Bialystok and Alvaniy.

His son and assistant Patrick feels the middle one of that trio may be their best chance.

“Westport Cove is a horse with an awful lot of ability, but he’s a very difficult ride. At Cheltenham, he lost his head and my big worry is that it’s probably too big a field for him, as he has to be dropped out, which is hard to do in a big-field handicap like that,” he said on a Zoom call with the track.

“Bialystok is a Flat-bred horse who I could see winning on the Flat in the summer. There’s a race in this fella. He was unlucky at the DRF, when he got brought down at the second last, and it didn’t happen for him at Cheltenham. If the ground isn’t too soft, he’ll have his chance.

“We also run Alvaniy, who is 8lb out of the handicap but he’s a horse I definitely think is better than his mark. While it will be difficult from 8lb out of the weights, he’s a horse that could pick up place money. There’s a big race in him, but it won’t be easy from out of the handicap.”

Nicholls runs last year’s winner Rubaud off top weight and Afadil.

Rubaud was a good winner of the race last year
Rubaud was a good winner of the race last year (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Rubaud won this race stylishly last year off a mark of 135 on good ground and has a much harder task this time off 148,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I don’t think he was right when he ran below par last time on heavy ground at Wincanton. He seems in a good place at the moment but I’d say he has it all to do off top weight on ground that is softer than he prefers.

“Afadil been running at the top of his form this spring and comes here a week after finishing third in a competitive race at Aintree, despite losing ground after a standing start.

“With Freddie Gingell claiming a handy 5lb, Afadil has a lovely light weight of only 10st 3lb and has a sporting each-way chance.”

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