Rehearsal Chase: Spiritofthegames fancied to bounce back at Newcastle for Dan Skelton with return to three miles

Spiritofthegames looking for first win since October 2018 as he heads to Newcastle for Rehearsal Handicap Chase on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing; Ashtown Lad steps up into graded company for John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury

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Trainer Dan Skelton is expecting a good run from Spiritofthegames in Saturday's Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle and provided an update on Newbury runners Ashtown Lad and Ch'tibello

Dan Skelton fancies Spiritofthegames to end his three-year wait for a victory as he steps back up for a three-mile test in Saturday's Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle, live on Sky Sports Racing.

The nine-year-old, whose only win over fences came on debut at Chepstow in October 2018, finished ninth in the two-and-a-half-mile Paddy Power Chase at Cheltenham earlier this month.

Skelton feels age may have caught up with his runner on that occasion and believes he deserves to land a decent prize after filling the places on a number of occasions, including when third at Aintree in April.

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Looking ahead to his weekend runners, Skelton told Sky Sports Racing: "I'm starting to fancy him for this race.

"In the Paddy Power Chase he just didn't quite have the legs for two-and-a-half miles these days.

"He's a bit older and has been to all those two-and-a-half-mile dances so we're now going to go to all the three-mile dances.

"Hopefully we can win one with him because he deserves to.

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"I can see him going really well at Newcastle on decent ground. The last time he won was on really good ground and maybe I've been ignoring a hint for three years.

"He's in really good form at home and you don't have to train him too hard, so hopefully he goes there with a good chance."

Newer to the chasing game is seven-year-old Ashtown Lad, who made a winning start over the bigger obstacles at Wetherby last month, taking a four-runner novice event.

Ashtown Lad made a winning start over fences at Wetherby in October
Image: Ashtown Lad made a winning start over fences at Wetherby in October

He takes a big step up into graded company at Newbury on Saturday in the John Francome Novices' Chase.

"He jumped very nicely [at Wetherby]," Skelton said. "There weren't bundles of runners in there but he did it very nicely I felt.

"I think he has stepped forward from that. We never got the chance to get him on the grass gallop before that because of the weather but we've been on in the interim and you should see an improved performance. Whether that is good enough to win a Grade Two, time will tell.

"I've been very happy with him at home. I do want to make sure it is genuinely good to soft but I understand Newbury have done a great job with the watering so hopefully we get a chance to run those horses on Saturday."

Ch'tibello (black and pink) was last seen finishing sixth in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham
Image: Ch'tibello (black and pink) was last seen finishing sixth in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham

Former Cheltenham Festival winner Ch'tibello is set to return for the first time since December last year.

The 2019 County Hurdle hero heads the field for the Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Hurdle.

"He's an older horse now and a previous winner at the Festival so he's been a magical horse for us," Skelton said.

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"There's no pressure on him. He's 10-years-old now but looks great at home and I'm super happy with him. He's just got to get out there now and get going.

"I don't think you'll see the sparks you used to see off him because you've got to be respectful of age and he isn't going to be the horse of old, but I still think there's a fair day in him because he's retaining all the old enthusiasm."

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