Dan Skelton believes Nicholls jumped the gun with champion trainer talk
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
By Lee Mottershead 8:06PM 14 SEP 2016
RACING’S rising force Dan Skelton believes his mentor Paul Nicholls was jumping the gun when predicting his long-time assistant could provide one of the main threats to the defence of his championship.
Speaking at his owners’ day earlier this month, Nicholls, who last season fended off a mighty assault from Willie Mullins to take a tenth title, put forward Skelton as his ante-post tip in the trainers’ race.
“I’d be having a few quid on Dan Skelton at 66-1,” said Nicholls. “He looks very strong this season, he has already got the bit between his teeth and there’s no doubt in my mind he will be mounting a serious title challenge in the next season or two.”
Skelton, now quoted between 20-1 and 33-1 having ended the last campaign in sixth place, does not believe the challenge will come this season.
How they stood 2015/16
1st Paul Nicholls: £2,439,740
2nd Willie Mullins: £2,341,735
3rd Nicky Henderson: £1,614,348
4th Colin Tizzard: £1,443,451
5th Philip Hobbs: £1,386,468
6th Dan Skelton: £1,255,804
“I’d like to think one day we could challenge for the championship, but I think this season is premature,” said Skelton on Wednesday.
“We’re continuing to build with novices stepping up through the grade and aren’t quite at the stage where we have the ammunition at the highest level. To have a chance in the championship you need to be full of horses for the top races.
“We’re going to do all the achieving we can but for us to win it the likes of Paul, Willie and Nicky [Henderson] would have to underachieve – and they won’t.
“I’m happy for people to know I want to be champion trainer. There’s nothing wrong with ambition. I’m not trying to be big-headed, it’s just that it’s something I’d love to do. It would mean we’d reached the top of the sport, which is what we’re trying to achieve.”
Nicholls is a best-priced 5-6 with Coral to defend his crown, while Mullins is generally available at 11-8.