Mike Drowne talks to Harry Skelton, who is hot on the champ’s heels this win­ter

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Talk­ing about his am­bi­tion to one day be cham­pion jockey

HARRY Skelton ad­mits he’s wait­ing for Richard John­son to re­tire be­fore think­ing of be­com­ing cham­pion jockey – just like “Dickie” did with Tony McCoy.

The pair have been pretty much neck and neck through the sum­mer jump­ing sea­son but the gap is sure to open up again now the real win­ter ac­tion gets go­ing.

John­son knows how that feels hav­ing chased AP in sec­ond place for so many years. Now the boot is on Skelton’s foot but he doesn’t seem to mind. The lack of out­side rides is his main prob­lem.

Last sea­son John­son had 1026 mounts, dou­ble the amount the 28-year-old had and the se­nior man has al­ready part­nered 100 more horses then Skelton this term.

Re­flect­ing on chal­leng­ing for the ti­tle, he said: “Catch­ing Dickie is pretty un­re­al­is­tic, quite frankly I see no chance of that, if I could hold my pitch in sec­ond that would be bril­liant.

“I’d love to be cham­pion jockey one day.It’s very hard I don’t get many out­side rides, I’m in seven days a week at home, I con­cen­trate on that, make sure that goes right .That’s my pri­or­ity.”

Suc­cess has not come eas­ily for Skelton, af­ter a suc­cess­ful spell rid­ing for Paul Ni­cholls and land­ing the Ir­ish Grand Na­tional at the age of 19,his ca­reer be­gan to go down­hill.

Af­ter split­ting with Ni­cholls and los­ing his claim ,he strug­gled to get rides and in 2012-2013 only man­aged to ride eight win­ners. Re­flect­ing on the tough times, Skelton said: “I came to Paul’s and got legged up on a lot of nice horses and to not have that wasn’t very nice, you thought one day you were good enough for the job then the next maybe you weren’t.

“I don’t re­gret any­thing, I’m thank­ful to Paul for what he done for me and if I hadn’t have been there I wouldn’t have had the feel of nice horses and never would have had the win­ners I had, at the end of the day he’s got a busi­ness to run and its sim­ple as that, he’s got to move on.

“The year I had eight win­ners was very tough, I was driv­ing around the coun­try, rid­ing out at five dif­fer­ent places ,try­ing to scrap for rides, it was men­tally tough.”

Luck­ily Harry’s brother, Dan, be­gan train­ing the fol­low­ing year, appointed him as his sta­ble jockey and his resur­gence be­gan.

The pair teamed up with 22 win­ners the first sea­son and have won over 300 races to­gether since. They also landed their first Chel­tenham fes­ti­val vic­tory last year when Su­perb Story won the County Hur­dle.

Skelton ad­mit­ted “In any sport a re­la­tion­ship is the most im­por­tant thing. Dan has com­plete faith in me and it was very nice to be put in that po­si­tion, I had to make sure it worked.

“Look at the suc­cess­ful peo­ple in the busi­ness, look at Philip Hobbs and Richard John­son, they’ve been to­gether for years, they are 110% be­hind each other and I think that makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to the suc­cess they have on the track.”

Re­flect­ing on his brother’s suc­cess, Skelton said; “I never thought things would hap­pen so quickly, when we first started we had 12 horses and three staff, now we have 130 horses and about 40 staff, things have hap­pened very quickly.

“One thing I’ve learnt though is that you have to have the staff.It’s all well hav­ing the horses but you need the right staff and the foun­da­tions to man­age them cor­rectly ,our staff have been fan­tas­tic. They are pas---

sion­ate about it, they put their heart and souls into it.”

De­spite all their suc­cess last year the Skelton broth­ers were over shad­owed by their 59-year-old fa­ther Nick when he took gold at the Rio Olympics .Harry is full of pride, say­ing: “He’s al­ways been there for us and you want to be suc­cess­ful for him to make him proud.

“He’s putting ev­ery­thing into us two, so we re­pay him with plenty of win­ners and Dan’s suc­cess­ful busi­ness, it’s very sat­is­fy­ing if we can give him some­thing back.

“It was a life­long am­bi­tion and his dream to win gold.To watch your fa­ther do that ,it was the proud­est day of my life and the best day of my life.”

It has been an­other lu­cra­tive sum­mer for Harry, with reg­u­lar win­ners for Dan. He heads into the main part of the sea­son hav­ing al­ready scored 70 times.

Re­flect­ing on his fruit­ful sum­mer Skelton, who rode 22 win­ners in May, said” “I’ve had a fan­tas­tic sum­mer.We kept a few in pur­posely that couldn’t re­ally win in the win­ter and who wanted bet­ter ground and that worked out well.”

Skelton also pin­pointed the Rio Gold syn­di­cate as a fac­tor in his suc­cess­ful sum­mer.He added: “Rio Gold has been a mas­sive suc­cess. I think they’ve had 19 win­ners and won plenty of prize­money.”

With the nights pulling in sig­nalling the start of the main Na­tional Hunt sea­son, Skelton ad­mits he has a lot of nice prospects to keep him smil­ing through the dreary weather.

“Look­ing for­ward to the win­ter we’ve got a lot of new horses, a lot of ex­cit­ing novices ,a few that you have seen al­ready, Shantou Rock, who was very im­pres­sive at New­ton Ab­bot in Oc­to­ber and Rene’s Girl.

“We have got a good, strong team. I’m look­ing for­ward to them for the win­ter.

“The horses have been run­ning re­ally well and it looks like we have some re­ally nice horses.”

Skelton is well on tar­get to beat his pre­vi­ous best of 101 win­ners, which he has done in the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons. He would love to beat the record, but rid­ing 100 is still the goal, as well as winning a few graded races.

Skelton has many big days in the sad­dle to come – and he might just edge past his big ri­val John­son be­fore too long.

Harry Skelton

Skelton on Su­perb Story at Chel­tenham

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