Harry Skelton: Saturday Preview

Harry Skelton: Hoping Third Time Lucki can strike in the Lightning 

Doncaster, Saturday 

I’m heading up to Doncaster for five rides on Saturday and first up is Jay Jay Reilly in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle (12:25). The ground is drying out in a lot of places, but that won’t be an inconvenience to him. 

He won nicely at Kempton in November and then ran okay at Taunton last time, but he couldn’t quite pick up after turning into the straight. We’re stepping him up in trip here which should suit and off a mark of 118 I think he can be competitive. He’s had a nice break since his last run.  

Third Time Lucki goes for the Lightning Novices’ Chase (13:35) where hopefully he should take all the beating. For Pleasure likes to get on with it so we can take a lead off him which should suit us perfectly. He wants a good strong gallop at two miles and I’m sure he’ll get that here.

He got stuck in the ground a little at Sandown, after showing a lot of exuberance mid-race which caught him out turning in. Hopefully with a good clear round he’ll win this. The race and track will suit him and then we can start thinking about the Arkle. 

We run Dazzling Glory in the Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle (14:10) who has got a lot to find on the figures. She’s had a nice break and if we could pick up some black type we’d be delighted. She’s got a lot on her plate to do that, though. 

I’m riding The Real Whacker for Ann Duffield in the River Don (14:45). I don’t know too much about him, but he won his maiden hurdle at Carlisle impressively last month. He looks like a real stayer and three miles round here should be ideal. It’s a competitive race with all of them having a chance, but they get racing a long way out at Donny and you need a horse that keeps going. He looks like he will. 

The big race of the day is the Sky Bet Chase (15:20) where we run Debece who’s been off the track for a long time. It’s always a hot race but he has a nice racing weight and he’s done plenty of work at home. 

He seems in good form; he’ll go there fresh and well and three miles won’t be a problem – there might just be a few who are a bit more unexposed. He’s 11 now and the ground should be ideal for him. You need something that will jump and travel in this race. There’s some very decent prize money on offer, let’s hope we can pick up some of it.  

Cheltenham, Saturday

Jack Andrews rides at Cheltenham and he’s on Beakstown in the novices’ handicap chase (13:20) where any one of the eight runners could easily win. He ran well when bumping into the progressive Erne River at Doncaster last time – that was a much more positive run. He likes good ground and if the short gap of 18 days doesn’t stop him, he should have a decent chance. 

Spiritofthegames runs in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase (13:55). We probably rode him positively enough over three miles last time, but we wanted to try something different as we’ve done pretty much everything else. He likes it round Cheltenham and the handicapper has given him a chance. Jack takes off 5lbs as well and the horse is well able on his day but he’s not getting any younger. This is his trip but he’s a 10-year-old not a seven-year-old, so it’s going to be a tough ask.

The closing mares’ bumper (16:15) looks a hot race on paper with plenty of winners in there. We run Notnowlinda who has won a point-to-point and has done everything we’ve asked of her at home. It will be a tough first start for her and it would be absolutely fantastic if she could pick up some black type.  

Uttoxeter, Saturday 

Bridget goes to Uttoxeter for a couple of rides with Cabot Cliffs first up in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle (14:22). He was disappointing in the Lanzarote last time but he’s in calmer waters here and the smaller field will help. He’s paying the price for doing so well as a juvenile and the handicapper really needs to give him a chance. 

Emmas Joy should go well in the mares’ novices’ handicap chase (14:57). She was running well when she didn’t quite finish off her race at Warwick last time. She might have bounced a little bit that day and looks to be on a nice, competitive mark. The trip is right, and this looks the perfect race for her.  

Rise in minimum weights

There has been plenty written and said about the planned 2lb rise in the weights as well as taking the sauna away, but it’s not what they say it is. We’re not getting two pounds. In a handicap when your minimum riding weight is 10st 4lbs, it’s still 10st 4lbs – that’s what you’re riding at. There’s been a complete lack of discussion and consultation – there needs to be communication between the PJA members, the PJA and the BHA.

I don’t need to use the sauna much, but there are lads in the weighing room who do. It’s a convenient way to lose weight quickly. Jockeys are busy people. We don’t just get up and stroll around for the morning, have a nice breakfast, and watch Good Morning Britain. We’re up early, we get in the car, ride out and then head off to the races. What do they want us to do? Go and run three laps of the track and then have five rides? You can’t do it. 

I’m not saying losing the saunas is a bad thing, for everyone’s long term health it will be a benefit, but we need an allowance. I’m talking about the jumps here rather than the Flat, but 10 stone is very light for a fully grown person and people are getting bigger. 

Nutrition and fitness have come a long way since I started riding – the lifestyles are a lot better too than back then. Fundamentally, you’re not getting a 2lb allowance when there should be a 5lb allowance – 3lbs for the back protector and 2lbs for the sauna being taken away. 

It just seems that this decision has been made very quickly. There’s never much discussion and consultation, and there’s never much mutual agreement. There certainly hasn’t been in this case. 








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