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Sandown calling for Nube Negra

Dan Skelton will save Nube Negra for the Celebration Chase at Sandown, rather than heading to Aintree.

Runner-up to Put The Kettle On in last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, the eight-year-old had been well supported to go one better in this season’s renewal.

However, heavy rain fell on watered ground at Prestbury Park on Wednesday forcing connections to pull him out.

Skelton said: “We obviously couldn’t run Nube Negra in that, as we knew the result if we were going to run him in those conditions, so he will go to Sandown.

“We did briefly discuss two and half miles at Aintree, but we don’t feel that is his trip, so he is going straight to Sandown for the Celebration Chase.”

Skelton, like his mentor Paul Nicholls, failed to strike at Cheltenham, but recorded several near misses.

Langer Dan was sent off favourite for the concluding race of the meeting, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, but was brought down at the second flight when Grand Jury fell.

Skelton said: “He is absolutely fine, but he will go to Aintree and probably run in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap on the Friday.”

That was a low point for the Alcester handler after the high of Protektorat’s fine third in the Gold Cup behind A Plus Tard and Minella Indo.

“We were delighted with Protektorkat,” said Skelton.

“He was the best of the English runners in the Gold Cup, going into it. He confirmed that and as long as he is all right, and he appears to be, he will go to Aintree on the Thursday for the Aintree Bowl.”

West Cork, who was fourth to State Man in the County Hurdle, is in line for a potential crack at the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

“West Cork ran a great race,” said Skelton. “We had him ready to run his best and he did run really well. He is in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, but he would be one for consideration at Aintree if the Scottish Champion Hurdle came too soon.”

Shan Blue, who returned following a five-month break in the Ryanair Chase after suffering a neck injury in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, will also head to the Aintree Festival.

Shan Blue was unsuited by the track at Cheltenham
Shan Blue was unsuited by the track at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

Skelton feels the eight-year-old will be better suited by the flatter track after his sixth-placed effort behind Allaho.

He said: “Shan Blue travelled well, jumped well and we don’t think that Cheltenham is his optimum track. He will go to Aintree in the race before the Grand National (Betway Handicap Chase).

“They all ran well. We were waiting on Langer Dan to try to get a winner and it didn’t work out, but what can you do – there is no point crying about it – you move on. They all ran well.”

Skelton has, though, retired his Scottish Champion Hurdle and County Hurdle winner Ch’tibello.

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