My Drogo halved in price for the Cheltenham Festival as he ultimately ran out an impressive winner of the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot.
A winner at Newbury last time out, that performance was littered with jumping errors but the Dan Skelton-trained winner was much slicker on this occasion.
But he was made to fight for the victory, as the Tom Symonds-trained Llandinabo Lad tried to see them all off from the front under a 5lb penalty – and it was not until after the last that My Drogo (9-1) pulled two and three-quarter lengths clear.
“I was really impressed, the second is really good in this ground – I know he was giving away a penalty, but I was really impressed with our horse and how much he’d improved jumping-wise,” Skelton told ITV Racing.
“We’d done plenty of practice at home, but before Newbury we couldn’t get him to make a mistake so were surprised how he jumped that day because he was moderate.
“He has bundles of class, he spent all last year with Polly Gundry and never got to run in a point because of Covid, but the extra year has given him such a chance because he’s much more mature.
“I’ll talk to the owners and work out the best route, but Cheltenham has never been the be-all and end-all this year for him because he’s every inch a chaser.”
Whenever the mud is flying horses trained by Venetia Williams can be counted on to be in the mix, and the Herefordshire trainer was on the mark with Enzo D’Airy in the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Winning rider Charlie Deutsch said: “I was thinking I might struggle to catch the one in front, but I was confident my lad would keep going and he’d have to be a good horse to get home having travelled like that on this ground.
“It turned out he folded in front and my lad picked up the pieces. He showed nothing over hurdles, but he jumped brilliantly today.
“You’re never afraid of the rain when you are riding for Venetia. I love riding these chasers in proper winter ground.”
Richard Johnson continued in good form with victory aboard Everglow (5-6 favourite) for his boss Philip Hobbs in the Sky Bet Money Back As Cash Maiden Hurdle.
“He jumped and travelled nicely through the race. I ended up making the running on him the last day, but he was green on his own so I wanted to get a lead,” said Johnson.
“We went very slow so I ended up in front, but he had his ears pricked and was looking at everything.
“It’s nice to get his head in front as he’s bumped into some good horses along the way.”