The trainer isn’t expecting vaccinations to affect Cheltenham Festival runs, but this week’s prep races may be a different story
After a weekend of flu-affected action, jump racing will return to something like a level playing field this week and Dan Skelton is one of many trainers hoping his horses will be able to run to their best despite an unscheduled round of vaccinations. The new rule requiring runners to have had a recent vaccination came in last Monday night, since when the normally prolific Skelton has had just five runners, but it will be a different story this week; lots of his horses got their jabs and will be eligible to run from Tuesday.
The Warwickshire trainer told me of his concern that some of those vaccinated last week, at his yard and at many others, may not run to form right away. “You are going to get horses this week and possibly the week after that seem OK at home but don’t run as well as expected. Some are going to feel no different and some are going to feel a bit down and you can’t tell until you get to the business end of a race.
“It’s the owners I feel sorry for. They expect the horses to be in tip-top form at this time of year and rightly so, and they normally are but we’ve been forced to do something outside of the normal and we just don’t know how that’s going to work. This has been thrust upon us and we’ve just got to get on with it.”
Skelton does not expect that this round of vaccinations will affect performances at the Cheltenham Festival in a month’s time. “The effects, even if they are negative, don’t last much beyond a fortnight. Cheltenham, you’ll have a level playing field by then.”
But this week’s prep runs might be a different story. “The ones I want to run this week and on Saturday, I feel very strongly that I want to run, to find out which race they go for [at Cheltenham]. They might need another run, especially the novices. We have had to give them the flu vaccs, we’re doing everything we can to mitigate any negatives and just hope they don’t have a short-term negative effect. But it’s a flip of a coin, as to individual horses. We’ve just got to do everything we can to make sure they’re as well as they can be.
“I’ve got Tokay Dokey in the Dovecote [at Kempton on Saturday], Protektorat in the Adonis, I’ve got a few in the handicaps that are en route to Cheltenham and we need to know what trips they’re going. I’ve got a couple to go up to Newcastle, one for the Eider, hopefully. I’d have been competing last week in all those big races, like a lot of us that weren’t there. Hopefully it’s all behind us, that’s the main thing to say now.”
He’s with Peter Bowen these days and, having been highly tried in two runs over fences last year, has come back down to his last winning mark of two years ago. There was a bit to like about his reappearance run last month and this could be the time to catch him.
Sue Smith could have a good day at Carlisle, thanks at least in part to Absolutely Dylan (3.00), who was having his fourth quick run when mildly disappointing at Newcastle before Christmas. His progress could resume in this race, which lacks depth. He’s 5-2.
One firm briefly went 7-1 about the nap, Camile (5.00) at Newcastle, but she was pretty soon down to a general 5-2. Formerly with Joseph O’Brien, she is having her second run for Iain Jardine, having won over hurdles on her debut for him. She may have been a mite lucky that day but it would be a surprise if she doesn’t prove ahead of her lowly Flat rating.