Dan Skelton plans to have his stable star Protektorat “properly ready” for his defence of the Betfair Chase at Haydock next month.
The eight-year-old ran out an impressive winner of the Merseyside Grade One last season and was last seen finishing fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, having placed third in the blue riband in 2022.
And while Skelton is not ruling out a third bid for Gold Cup glory in March, his main focus at this stage is ensuring Protektorat is fully tuned up for his comeback run on November 25.
He said: “We will be going to Haydock fresh and ready for the Betfair Chase. From what I’ve seen, he has not gone backwards in any way. The way we will have him ready for that race is that we will have him properly ready. I think it will take a good one on the day to beat him.
“He will have an entry in the King George at Kempton and we will look at that. We will have to look sensibly at the Gold Cup as we have had two goes at it and it hasn’t happened yet, but we will worry about the spring when we get to it.
“Anything is possible at this point and what happens before March will dictate whether he should be there or not.
“If all of a sudden he found 10lb of improvement then you would have to have another go at the Gold Cup, but if the opposition have perfect seasons you might think you are better doing something else. We will do what is right for the horse.”
My Drogo has not been seen in competitive action bolting up in a novice chase at Cheltenham in December 2021, having missed the entirety of last season through injury.
However, the eight-year-old is on the comeback trail, with Skelton eyeing up some major prizes.
“He is back now and I’m delighted with how he looks,” said the trainer.
“I’d like to try and start him off in the Old Roan (at Aintree). That would be the perfect scenario. It was a shame he missed last season as you don’t want to be missing one of your stars.
“Every time he has stood up over obstacles he is unbeaten. He was improving until his problems, and we would like to pick up from where he left off. If we can go to the Old Roan on really nice ground that will give him the opportunity to step forward.
“He will have an entry in the Paddy Power Gold Cup (at Cheltenham) and Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes who own him are mad keen to get him to the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, so we are trying to work him towards that.
“He looks fantastic and is behaving beautifully. He has as much ability as any horse I’ve had, and you have to take that seriously.”
Skelton confirmed Nube Negra is likely to make his return in next month’s Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, which he won last season.