Harry Skelton: My favourite Cheltenham winners
All Cheltenham races are special, especially the ones you win. There’s certainly no feeling quite like your first Cheltenham Festival winner though, and to get mine for both me and my brother Dan was even more special.
Superb Story, County Hurdle, 2016
Superb Story had won at Wetherby in October 2015 before running a cracker to be second to Old Guard in the Greatwood at Cheltenham a month later. We then decided to wait four months for the County Hurdle as we knew he had a nice racing weight.
He was a really strong traveller and went round very easy that day. Everything went to plan and bypassing the last didn’t make any difference to us – it all went our way.
I obviously enjoyed it but the immediate feeling afterwards was relief. Cheltenham races are different. The Cheltenham Festival is where everyone is watching and judging you.
You can have 100 winners in a season and people might not notice you, whereas you could have 10 winners all year and a Festival winner and everyone thinks you’ve had a fantastic season.
It’s the Olympics of our sport and every race is so competitive. The feeling you get when you win there, no other place can give you that. I realise that now I’ve had a few more winners there. It really isn’t easy, there are lots of very good jockeys who have never had a Cheltenham Festival winner.
Ch’tibello, County Hurdle, 2019
The County Hurdle has been a lucky race for us and Ch’tibello in 2019 was a long-term plan as well. He was a classy horse running in a handicap and Dan trained him to perfection on the day. It’s a very sweet feeling for all of us and a sense of real achievement when a long-term plan you have for a Cheltenham horse comes off.
Roksana, Mares’ Hurdle, 2019
To get a Grade One winner at the Festival is something else and it was incredible to win the Mares’ Hurdle with Roksana. A Grade One is the highest stage.
Benie Des Dieux fell at the last when she was in front and I still think it would have been pretty-close if she had stood up. If you don’t jump, you don’t win.
North Hill Harvey, Greatwood Hurdle, 2016
It wasn’t a Cheltenham Festival winner but to win the Greatwood on North Hill Harvey was another memorable day, just nine months on from Superb Story in the County.
We’ve had some luck in the big two-mile handicap hurdles at Cheltenham and it’s always fantastic to land one of those historic and valuable prizes.
Sanctuaire, Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle, 2010
I never actually rode Sanctuaire in a race but I was working at Paul’s [Nicholls] back then and I used to ride him all the time. Dan had a lot to do with him. He was a wild horse, a real lunatic.
Winning the Fred Winter was fantastic because that was the plan. He had come from France and when he won at Taunton a few weeks before the Festival, Ruby [Walsh] couldn’t pull him up.
He was a freak of a thing, he had so much ability but you never knew what he would do next – he’d be gone from underneath you before you blinked. That really was a great day, Dan put a lot of work and time into him.