Nube Negra untroubled at long odds-on in Shloer Chase
Nube Negra took a penalty kick in his stride to land the three-runner Shloer Chase at odds of 1-10 at Cheltenham.
Dan Skelton’s exciting prospect had little opposition after Arkle Trophy winner Edwardstone was withdrawn, and under an armchair ride from Harry Skelton took the two-mile Grade Two contest by an easy eight lengths.
Fans of the eight-year-old, who was runner-up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last year, may have a long wait before seeing him again, however.
Plans are to either run in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton or keep him fresh until March, where the trainer feels they have “unfinished business”.
Skelton said: “I am just happy to get it out of the way. When you are 10-1 on you have everything to lose and nothing to gain.
“He should have done what he did. What have we learned? Well, nothing, really. I don’t think you are going to learn anything from it. It is a shame the race had cut up for the racecourse, the fans, the sponsors, but that is racing.
“We had to withdraw at the Festival because of unusual (ground) conditions. A few have had to withdraw this time because of unusual conditions. That is how sport is sometimes. We got our conditions today and we’d have loved to have had a bit of a fight, but that didn’t materialise – I’m sure it will later in the year, but that got the season off to a perfect start.”
He added: “He has come back as well as I have ever had him. To be fair, he is a very easy horse to train in the respect that he gives you so much, but what happens is sometimes you can over-stretch the band with him and that is why he has always been so good fresh in the past.
“Today has been a canter round, so I don’t think today is one of those days that takes so much out of him, but that is why in the past you have not seen him so much, because he puts so much into everything he does, you can’t go to the well too often.
“I’m stone cold on the possibility of going to the Tingle Creek. We have been there a few times and we have learned that it doesn’t work and if he does go anywhere it will be Kempton, but I need to have a serious talk with Terry (Spraggett, owner).
“Obviously we harbour major ambitions for here in March. We were second last year, two renewals ago, and feel we have some unfinished business.
“As you well know, he can only do it if the ground is in his favour.”
Kempton could be on the cards, although Skelton defended any decision to run the horse sparingly.
He said: “The serious race for him is the Desert Orchid – that is the only one between here and now – but I have got to talk to Terry. It wouldn’t be something we decide today or commit to until we really have to.
“It is putting eggs in one basket, but we are apparently in an era where horses can only run three times a year. That is not an apparent thing – that is the reality.
“Everyone has to understand that horses can only give their best that much a year. Now, if you go round like that at 10-1 on, obviously you can give a lot more, because that is not taking much out of them.
“Next week, with Protektorat against A Plus Tard (in the Betfair Chase at Haydock), you start trying to take on the Gold Cup-winning team and tell me that is not going to take a lot out of you and it will take a good six weeks to get over it, that is the truth.
“We are not in a time where trainers are being over-protective, we are at a time, where, I believe, we are trying to peak our horses for the big races at the appropriate times. So, it is really hard to do. It not us moaning and complaining and don’t want to turn up – it is just really hard to do.
“When you go there and you are not prepared you get an even harder race and it is even harder to get over.
“Protektorat is prepared. He has been away three times, has been to the grass gallop and has had an away day – he is prepared and needs to be.
“We know we have got to make up ground on A Plus Tard. How do we make that up? He’s a young horse, has not had many goes at the trip and hopefully a more suitable track for him – we have got to try and give it a go. If they are well and if they are prepared and ready, I’m not going to duck it. I’m not afraid to do it, but we will always do it if we get the best build-up. We can’t do it if we get a slack build-up.”