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Cheltenham Festival: Protektorat triumphs in the Ryanair Chase to give Sir Alex Ferguson double on day three

Protektorat fended off the Festival proven Envoi Allen in the Ryanair Chase to secure a quick-fire double on day three of the Cheltenham Festival for the Skelton brothers.

Protektorat secured the double for Sir Alex Ferguson in the Ryanair Chase after Monmiral won the race before
Image: Protektorat secured the double for Sir Alex Ferguson in the Ryanair Chase after Monmiral won the race before

Protektorat proved dropping back in trip was no issue when producing a brilliant display to claim the Ryanair Chase for the red-hot Dan Skelton team at the Cheltenham Festival.

A Grade One winner over three miles, he was third and fifth when tried in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the past two years and connections resisted taking a third crack at the blue riband to revert to one of the day three features.

There was plenty of pace on show with Stage Star and Ahoy Senor leading the field along, with Protektorat among those right on that duo's tail in the hands of Harry Skelton.

Having travelled menacingly into contention it appeared 9/4 favourite and defending champion Envoi Allen was the one the front-runners had to worry about heading into the straight, but neither Stage Star or Protektorat were ready to give up the fight and although Stage Star faded after two out there was still plenty of fight left in Protektorat.

There was little to separate Protektorat and Henry de Bromhead's charge jumping the final fence, but it was Protektorat's stamina reserves which then came to the fore late in the day as the 17/2 chance stormed up the Cheltenham hill to victory.

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It was Skelton's fourth victory at this year's Festival, and also the second in the space of 40 minutes for the collective of owners that include Sir Alex Ferguson and John Hales - whose famous yellow colours Skelton donned in the saddle.

Dan Skelton said: "We've been trying the Gold Cup trip because we've been trying to make it happen, it's the race the owners would most like to win. We dropped him in and he finished third and we rode him more aggressively and he finished fifth.

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"He wasn't hitting the Gold Cup standard this year, so we've come for this and I thought Harry gave him a supreme ride. When Envoi Allen came upsides us I thought he's danced this dance a lot of times and maybe we're booked for second, but then going to the last I thought we'd found a bit more, maybe that's that stamina that we've been filling him with for the last few years.

Protektorat wins the Ryanairchase
Image: Protektorat wins the Ryanair Chase

"It's a massive family thing and the work that the staff put in is phenomenal. I don't know what the magic dust was this week. What's going on here is what we all try to do, it just very rarely happens.

"The Ryanair Chase is one of the biggies. Grey Dawning is a Grade One novice with a lot to look forward to and with the handicappers you've got to place them well, but this is one of the grails isn't it?

"Two Grade Ones at Cheltenham on one day, it doesn't happen."

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