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Cheltenham: Skelton opts for Ryanair with Shan Blue

Shan Blue is set to drop in trip for the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham on March 17th, with trainer Dan Skelton ruling out a bid for Gold Cup glory.

The eight-year-old had a productive season as a novice over fences last season when landing the Grade 1 Kauto Star Chase at Kempton at Christmas, but took a heavy fall three out when having the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at his mercy on his reappearance at Wetherby in October.

Skelton bides his time

Shan Blue has been given plenty of time to recover by trainer Dan Skelton and has not been seen since and is now a 12/1 chance for the Ryanair Chase.

Skelton said: "The Ryanair is the plan for Shan Blue. We weren't tempted by the Gold Cup at this stage. We think he shows enough pace and the Gold Cup over an extreme distance feels like it's a bit soon.

"I think we're going to go straight there. We could consider the Ascot Chase, but I'd say at the moment that is more unlikely than likely because of the time we've given him."

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In Shan Blue's place, recent Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase winner Protektorat is set for duty in the Gold Cup for which he is a 12/1 shot.

Skelton welcomes Protektorat's standing

Skelton added of him and his other Festival big guns: "Protektorat will go straight to the Gold Cup, 100 per cent. Apparently in the betting he's Britain's best hope.

"It's quite a nice position to be in, you'd rather be further up the betting than down it, but it doesn't mean a lot at this stage - I'm just looking forward to having three or four championship chances.

"Nube Negra will run in the Champion Chase. I've also got Allmankind in there, the Gredleys want to see which race suits him best at the Festival."

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