Skelton hoping Latenightpass will get him to Aintree with a chance

Last Updated 22 Dec 2023 | By Enda McElhinney | Commercial content | 18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply | Wagering

07.04.2022, Aintree, Liverpool, GBR – Latenightpass with Gina Andrews up wins the Randox Hunters Chase at Aintree. IMAGO

Trainer Dan Skelton is eyeing a tilt at the Randox Grand National for Latenightpass in the wake of landing the Glenfarclas Crystal Cup at Cheltenham’s Christmas Meeting.

The ten-year-old has spent much of his career on the point-to-point and hunter chase circuit for the husband and wife team of trainer Tom Ellis and amateur rider Gina Andrews, memorably claiming the 2022 Foxhunters’ Chase over the National fences at Aintree.

He was fourth in that contest last spring and, afterwards, connections opted for a relatively late change in path.

Move to Team Skelton

There was plenty of encouragement to be taken from his cross-country debut and first start for new trainer Dan Skelton when Latenightpass finished second to Foxy Jacks at Prestbury Park last month.

With that run behind him, Latenightpass was made favourite for his return to Cheltenham at the Christmas Meeting.

With Andrews again in the saddle, Latenightpass went one better four weeks on. After travelling well, he found plenty for pressure following the final obstacle to score by four-lengths from Francky Du Berlais.

It was a polished showing that thrilled his new trainer – though Skelton was quick to admit that he is not quite responsible for the work just yet.

“I thought coming away from last time that he acquitted himself very well but, to be fair, I don’t really know the horse that well.

“Tom (Ellis) trains him and, throughout all this, Bridget (Skelton, Gina Andrews’ sister) has done all the work on him.

“It has just been my name on the licence. He has been a massive addition to the team. Not all of them take to it, but he did.”

Aintree on the long-term hit list

Skelton also made no attempt to hide the fact that Aintree in the spring is something that is already on everyone’s mind, especially given the calibre of rival he was beating at Cheltenham – albeit in a handicap.

Asked about a tilt at the Grand National, the trainer added: “I’d say it is blindingly obvious (to have a go). I wouldn’t say he was superior there, as you have the likes of Galvin and Minella Indo, who you meet off level weights at the Festival.

“I think it is very acceptable to come back for the Festival and run against them without the expectation that you are going to beat them off level weights.”

Aintree form and precedent

Skelton points to the case of Silver Birch, who won a Cross Country race en route to landing the Grand National for Gordon Elliott back in 2007, as a source of encouragement.

“I think Silver Birch ran in the cross-country race before winning the Grand National. I’m not saying we should be favourite for the Grand National, but I think he more than deserves his chance,” he added.

“He has got experience (over the Aintree fences), he stays the trip well. When you come out of hunter chases, you don’t know if you belong in a higher grade. I think he has probably now suggested twice that is the truth.”

Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is a racing writer with a growing portfolio of work on both British and Irish racing, with a particular fondness for National Hunt racing. While he acknowledges there have been many great runners; there has only ever been one Denman.

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