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Cheltenham Festival: A look at Dan Skelton's Festival runners

Dan Skelton has established himself amongst Britain's finest National Hunt trainers in the last few years and he will head to the Cheltenham Festival hoping for success on the big stage.

The former assistant to Paul Nicholls has formed a strong alliance with his brother Harry - former champion jockey and the man charged with steering the leading hopes of Team Skelton.

The Warwickshire trainer has been operating on his own steam since 2013 and already has four Cheltenham Festival winners, including the Grade 1 Mares' Hurdle in 2019 with Roksana.

Frustratingly, Dan Skelton hasn't registered a winner at any of the last three Cheltenham Festivals and, given the huge importance that is now placed on the meeting, that's a statistic he won't want to see grow any further.

We take a look at some of Skelton's leading contenders for glory at the 'greatest show on turf' from 14th-17th March in Cheltenham.

WhatCheltenham Festival 2023
WhereCheltenham Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire
WhenTuesday 14th March - Friday 17th March, 2023
How to watchRacing TV, selected races on ITV & bet365 Sports Live Streaming

Brown Advisory Novices' Chase

Galia Des Liteaux - 20/1

The mare Galia Des Liteaux remains lightly raced and could be a contender for the Skeltons in whichever race she contests come the Festival.

She has won two of her three starts this season since going chasing, winning a Listed Bangor novice event against her own sex over 2m1½f in November and a three-mile Warwick Grade 2 against geldings in January.

In between times, she was pulled up in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton Park over Christmas. She made a bad mid-race blunder in that contest, which could have given her confidence a knock.

The rebound in the Hampton Court was most pleasing, however, and the three-mile Brown Advisory Novices' Chase could be her thing, especially getting weight from the boys.

Mares' Hurdle

Molly Ollys Wishes - 50/1

He's already won it once and Molly Ollys Wishes could be a lively outsider for Skelton in the Mares' Hurdle.

Some of her best form has come at intermediate distances and so this race could be optimal. She tackled three miles in the Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day in January and didn't seem to get home.

She did, though, have the pace to win her comeback start at Wetherby over two miles in October.

The Mares' Hurdle is a deep race with Honeysuckle and Epatante likely to line up alongside the likes of Festival winners Marie's Rock and Love Envoi, but Molly Ollys Wishes should be one to consider.

Related Cheltenham Festival News

Cheltenham Festival: A look at Paul Nicholls' Festival runners

Cheltenham Festival: A look at Willie Mullins' Festival runners

Cheltenham Festival: A look at Henry De Bromhead's Festival runners

Cheltenham Festival: A look at Nicky Henderson's Festival runners

Craft Irish Whiskey Co. Plate Handicap Chase

Unexpected Party - 16/1

Skelton admitted that he really fancied Unexpected Party when he ran in the Coral Cup last March, a race he went off 8/1 to win. It didn't go his way and he was pulled up, with the trainer suggesting 'he wasn’t quite right afterwards and I wasn't happy with him'.

Skelton retained faith this season and sought for Unexpected Party to 'take high rank' amongst his novice chasers.

Though he hasn't managed to win in four runs over fences, there have been some excellent efforts in defeat behind good horses like McFabulous, Jonbon and Stage Star - latterly when third over 2m4½f at Cheltenham on Trials Day off a mark of 140.

He still holds entries in the Grade 1 novice chases, but something like the Plate, over that intermediate trip, could be where he gets a chance to excel.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Protektorat - 18/1 

Third in the Gold Cup last March, Protektorat returned this season to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock in emphatic fashion and that win really pleased his trainer.

Less pleasing would have been his run in the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day in late January, when he was only fourth as Ahoy Senor won for Lucinda Russell.

Skelton felt he learned plenty from that run and how he had prepared for it. He absolutely has not lost heart in what his stable star can do and feels a different version of Protektorat will turn up come the Gold Cup.

He remains one of Britain's leading hopes to stop a fifth successive Irish-trained Gold Cup winner.

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