Ch'tibello keeps it in the family for County Hurdle glory

Another success for Team Skelton

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Dan Skelton won the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle for the third time in four years as Ch’tibello powered clear up the Cheltenham hill.

After Superb Story in 2016 and Mohaayed 12 months ago, Ch’tibello now has his name on the roll of honour.

Having run in the Champion Hurdle last year, his class was not in doubt – but he had not been seen since finishing second at Aintree in December.

Since then he has had a wind operation and it has obviously worked, as jockey Harry Skelton moved ominously through the field on the turn for home.

We Have A Dream and Countister still had a chance, but Ch’tibello (12-1) flew up the hill to beat top-weight We Have A Dream by a length and a half.

Dan Skelton said: “I told Harry to go out and ride the horse as if he had 10lb in hand, because I’d never had the horse so well, and everything worked out like a dream.

“I love the County Hurdle and it’s been such an important race for us. I knew he was more than up to that level, and Harry gave him a great ride.”

Harry Skelton said: “The man I ride for (brother) is a very good trainer and just as good a man.

“He told me we were in the right place with this horse today. He told me to go out and enjoy it and the horse gave me a great feel. He was gutsy at the end.

“He’s such a tough horse, one of those you always look forward to riding.”

The brothers are the sons of showjumping great Nick Skelton, who said: “All credit to Harry, who gave the horse an unbelievable ride. I went out on to the gallops this morning and this horse was out doing a couple of easy laps.

“He looked fantastic and I just thought this could be his day.”

Hazel Hill came with a well-timed run under amateur rider Alex Edwards to take the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Chase.

The 7-2 favourite justified market support as he was produced to head long-time leader Road To Rome after the second-last fence.

Storming up the hill, the Philip Rowley-trained 11-year-old swept to victory by four lengths from Shantou Flyer, with Top Wood seven lengths away in third.

“Unbelievable. I love this horse. He’s run 15 times and won 14 of them, I think,” Edwards said.

“We only really tested him this year. We ran him at Warwick with a lot of weight. He’s done it well.

“I’m in a very lucky position to ride these horses.”

Joseph O’Brien, who suffered heartbreak in the Triumph Hurdle when Sir Erec met with a fatal injury, finished the meeting with a winner through Early Doors in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Ridden by Jonjo O’Neill jnr, son of the trainer and former champion jockey, Early Doors (5-1) stepped up on his third place 12 months ago to take the last race of the entire meeting.

Defying top-weight, Early Doors was brought with a well-timed run to collar the confidently-ridden Dallas Des Pictons by a length and a quarter.

The latter’s Gordon Elliott-trained stablemate, Defi Bleu, was four lengths back in third. Champagne Court was fourth.

O’Neill jnr said: “It is a massive feeling. I’m thankful for Joseph to putting me on, as I knew he had a great chance.

“To be fair he really picked up when I needed him to and he knuckled down. It is amazing. When you are put in massively privileged positions you don’t take it for granted, to do it together as a team is just amazing.

“I rode in this race last year and the Kim Muir the year before, so to win at the Festival is amazing. There is no place like Cheltenham, but there is no place like the Festival, it is completely different kettle of fish.”

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