Jumping wins the day as Shan Blue leaves Skelton brothers purring in Kauto Star
When last seen over hurdles Shan Blue was sent off at 100-1. After his excellent Grade 1 success in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices' Chase there is next to no chance he will be 100-1 over fences again.
In winning the Kauto Star for owner Colm Donlon, Shan Blue not only maintained his unbeaten record over fences, he also reversed Cheltenham Festival form with The Big Breakaway, who finished two places in front of him when fourth behind Envoi Allen at Cheltenham in March.
A crunching mistake at the final fence did not help The Big Breakaway's cause on this occasion, but Shan Blue had already done more than enough to win having jumped impressively under Harry Skelton.
"You won't see him in an RSA Chase – he has too much pace for that," was the rider's take on the winner, and although Dan Skelton did not rule out a tilt at the novices' 'Gold Cup', he made clear the attributes associated with winners of that race were not those which make Shan Blue so potent.
"I think the RSA could be a real stretch for him," said the trainer. "I don't think he's a slogger – and I think today proved that. He was very nimble at his jumps but when you need a big jump he's there for you as well. The reason he is a good horse is because he jumps well.
"Nobody would have ever heard of Shan Blue as a hurdler. He was better than average, but not by much. Now, as a chaser, you're seeing a really good horse. That's because he is a good jumper and we mustn't blunt his biggest asset."
Skeltons strike Lucki again
Third Time Lucki turned out not to be true for the horse of that name – but a fourth run over hurdles yielded a third success this season, with the victorious novice now likely to be aimed at the Betfair Hurdle by the Skeltons.
The Champion Bumper fourth had won twice over hurdles before coming unstuck in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham. That, however, turned out to be a strange contest, and in a more orthodox race the Dan Skelton-trained youngster produced an authoritative display.
"His last race was a bit of a disaster but today's test suited him a lot better," said Skelton. "You can now ride him so much closer to the pace, whereas before we knew he would do too much.
"He has been relatively busy with four runs already this season, but whilst he is next season's chaser, we still want to compete in top races over hurdles. Everything is under consideration and I would love to try him in a fast-run handicap."
Clown has Lavelle laughing
Jumping is literally the name of the winter game and in the Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football Novices' Limited Handicap Chase one horse did it better than all others.
That horse was Killer Clown, who had this won turning for home. His dominance was reflected in the seven-length margin back to runner-up Falco Blitz as much as in the 16 lengths back to the third Son Of Camas.
Emma Lavelle was not present but winning rider Adam Wedge said: "I think the flat track and two and a half has done him the world of good today.
"His jumping's just got so good. He's jumped them into the ground down the back straight, so I could fill him turning in and he's done it very well. He's improved with every run, which is lovely to see, and hopefully there's more to come."
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