Dan Skelton is, of course, the eldest son of Olympic show jumper Nick Skelton but, since embarking on a training career in 2013, has quickly established himself as a leading exponent of the art, or science, of preparing National Hunt horses. Testament to his progress through the training ranks in a short space of time is that, at the time of writing, he has just broken the record, previously held by Martin Pipe, for the fastest hundred winners in a National Hunt season.
His hundredth winner of 2018/19 was Sam Red, ridden by William Marshall, in an amateur riders’ handicap chase at Cheltenham on October 26, over a week ahead of the previous best set by the 15-time Champion Trainer on November 3, 2001. Indeed, at the time of writing, Skelton has saddled 104 winners, more than double the number sent out by his nearest pursuer, Peter Bowen, and his total prize money, which is approaching £850,000, gives him a lead of nearly £400,000 in the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship.
Dan Skelton spent nine years as assistant trainer to Paul Nicholls at Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, Somerset before starting out on his own at Lodge Hill Stables, a training centre purpose-built by his father, Nick, at Alcester in the heart of rural Warwickshire. Skelton Jnr. began his training career with just a dozen horses, but saddled 27 winners in his first season – notably including Willow’s Saviour in The Ladbroke at Ascot – and hasn’t really looked back.
In 2015/16, he saddled over a hundred winners in a season, and earned over £1 million in total prize money, for the first time and in 2017/18 enjoyed his most successful season so far, with 156 winners and £1.74 million in total prize money. As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Skelton has the distinction of winning the County Handicap Hurdle – arguably the most competitive race in the National Hunt calendar – twice, with Superb Story in 2016 and Mohaayed in 2018. All that’s missing from his impressive CV is a Grade 1 winner but, granted his meteoric rise to the top of his profession, that surely is just a matter of time.