As a son of Olympic gold-medal-winning showjumper Nick Skelton, there was always a good chance Dan Skelton would pursue a career that had something to do with horses. However, having decided to transfer his experience with showjumpers to the world of national hunt horse racing, few would have predicted the level of success that has quickly come his way.
The number of winners he’s trained has increased each season since he began training in 2013 and it is surely a case of when he becomes Champion National Hunt Trainer rather than if.
Life As An Assistant Trainer
Dan Skelton didn’t start at the top though, instead he spent nine-years learning his trade as an assistant trainer to Paul Nicholls. His time at the multiple Champion National Hunt Trainer saw him witness some of the great horses that Nicholls trained during that period, including Kauto Star, Deman, and Master Minded. It was no doubt the successes of these horses in championship races like the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Queen Mother Champion Chase that spurred Skelton into trying to experience similar successes as a trainer in his own right, and he took the plunge to go it alone in 2013.
Dan Skelton Training Stats
27 winners from 171 runners were the first-season reward for Skelton’s decision to become a trainer. Those winners were achieved at a strike-rate of 16%, with the highlight being the victory of Willow Saviour in the 2013 Ladbroke Hurdle, a lucrative hurdle race that takes place at Ascot. Total prize-money won in his first season topped £327,000
Instant success brought in new owners and an influx of horses, which saw Skelton notch-up 73 winners in 2014/15, which were achieved at a rate of 19%. Prize-money earned also more than doubled to £714,000.
In the 2015/16 National Hunt Season, his 104 winners saw him top the £1 Million prize money barrier for the first time, ending the season with total prize-money of £1,255, 804.
He increased his number of winners to 118 in 2016/17, with prize money also increasing to 1,329,000.
However, despite his exponential success, he once again raised the bar in the 2017/18 season by recording 156 winners and earning $1,738, 235 in prize money.
They say that success breeds success though, and Skelton is already well on his way to another setting another personal best in the 2018/19 season. The 100 winners and £1 Million barriers were taken care of before December and, with the season not ending April, it’s conceivable he’ll break the 200 winners and the £2 Million prize money barriers for the first time in only his sixth season as a trainer.
Dan Skelton’s High-Profile Horses
Willows Saviour success in the 2013 Ladbroke Hurdle may have kickstarted Dan Skelton’s career, but he quickly kicked on the following year with Grade 3 successes for Shelford in the Silver Trophy Handicap at Chepstow and What A Warrior in the United Cup Handicap Chase.
He then stepped it up in 2015 with plenty of Grade 2 successes, which included Blue Heron in the Kingswell Hurdle. Three Musketeers also added two Grade 2 successes in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle and the Fullers London pride Novices’ Chase. He also trained Al Ferof to win the Peterbrough Chase, after that horse was transferred to him from the yard of Paul Nicholls.
He went on to break his Cheltenham Festival duck in 2016, when Superb Story lived up to his name in the County Hurdle. Skelton also won the Scottish Champion Hurdle with Ch’tibello, whilst he would return to Cheltenham later in the year to win the Greatwood Hurdle with North Hill Harvey.
Superb Story and North Hill Harvey also won big races in 2017, along with Two Taffs, Oldgrangewood, and Get On The Yeager.
He then registered a second Cheltenham Festival success in the 2018 County Hurdle with Mohaayed, whilst Rene’s Girl, Roksana, Ashoka, Stylish Dancer, Value At Risk, Virgilio, Spiritofthegames, and Born Survivor all earned their keep by winning some big pots.
What The Future Holds
Dan Skelton has already proven he can train winners in great volume, and he places average horses with ruthless efficiency. However, despite a couple of Cheltenham Festival successes, he’s yet to discover the type of horses that can win the championship races like the King George, Champion Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Grand National. Whether he’s got any future stars in his current batch of horses remains to be seen, but the winners are bound to keep on flowing.
Horses to follow from the Dan Skelton stable include Born Survivor, Crucial Role, Rene’s Girl, Robin Waters, Virgilio, and Roksana.