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Skelton follows the County line

"We love the County Hurdle!" said trainer Dan Skelton after winning the G3 £100,000 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle for the third time in four years.

Ch'Tibello, ridden by Skelton's brother Harry, beat We Have A Dream by a length and a half at 12/1.

Ch'Tibello and Harry Skelton

Skelton first took the two miles, one-furlong contest in 2016 with Superb Story (Harry Skelton), and again in 2018 with Mohaayed (Bridget Andrews).

He said: "Harry gave him a magic ride. We've talked about it all week, and you say, 'do this, do that and do the other'. With this horse we've had a season, maybe 18-month plan. And I said, 'there are no instructions for you today - you do what you want to do. You've got maybe 10lb in hand; use it. You'll do it.'

"It's easy to be confident after the event. But he's a Graded horse coming back from those races that he couldn't win. With The New One maybe 15 months ago at Haydock [the Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial in January 2018, where Ch'Tibello finished second by half a length], I said to the team that own him, 'that's going to last. He'll feel that for some time, but don't worry, he'll win the County Hurdle in 15 months time.'

"You go around all year, 361 days of the year - with the exception of Aintree, that's pretty good - grafting and grinding and doing the miles. You turn up here on the Tuesday and you go 'wow'. You are allowed to be a part of this. If you are a winner here, it is something else. Hand on heart, I feel privileged to be a part of this game, and to be a winning part of it is a dream come true for my family, my team, for all of us. We all graft tirelessly for this, everyone does. To be a part of this week is a dream.

"I am sure Bryony [Frost, who won the G1 Ryanair Chase yesterday on Frodon] said it a lot more eloquently than I did, but it means so much to everybody, it really does. And we love the County Hurdle!"

Ian Marmion and four friends make up the Can't Say No Partnership, who own Ch'Tibello, and Marmion said: "This is wonderful, just wonderful. We thought Ch'Tibello was a genuine Champion Hurdle chance two years ago but we got a phone call from Dan on the morning to say he was lame in his box.

"I have never been as disappointed but Dan said 'trust me, I will get him there this year if everything goes our way.' He has been telling me for weeks that he has never had this horse better.

"It is phenomenal because we are small owners with a handful of horses. We just had the winner of the 1.55pm at Fakenham, so we have had an across-the-card double. It is amazing, absolutely amazing.

"We have four or five horses with Dan and a few with Christian Williams. To have a day like this is beyond our wildest dreams."

The Skelton brothers will always have a soft spot for the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.

Today trainer Dan won the race for the third time, while jockey Harry recorded his second success as Ch'tibello raced to victory, after gaining his first on Superb Story in 2016.

Twelve months ago Harry looked on as his now-fiance Bridget Andrews won the race on the same stable's Mohaayed, who was unplaced as top-weight in today's event.

Ch'tibello (12/1) beat We Have A Dream (14/1) and Countister (18/1) with Whiskey Sour (5/1 favourite) in fourth. The distances were one and a half lengths, a head and four and a half lengths.

Amid irrepressible scenes of joy in the winner's enclosure, the tale of how the race had long been the plan for Ch'tibello was unfurled, and the Skeltons celebrated like winners of the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup and Randox Health Grand National double.

Harry said: "I ride for a very good man and a very, very good trainer - he knew the plan and he has pulled it off to perfection.

"As a jockey I'm in a privileged position and people would give their arms left and right for what I've got; I understand that, but our father grounded us, we are up early every day and work hard and that's what it's all about. There is so much enjoyment here and the horse is so tough.

"Last season he had a beating by The New One [half a length in a G2 race at Haydock] and it took him some time to get over that. Since then it was how do we hatch a plan?

"He's got a touch of class and had won a G2 - he went round there today in second gear. When I got on him Dan said 'go out there and enjoy it', and when the race started I was almost in a position that was too handy. I like to ride him to come past horses and not get there too soon. It went well, but when you are on a good horse it just happens.

"My brother fills me with confidence - he said enjoy it and I did.

"This feels very different from our win with Roksana on Tuesday [when she won the OLBG Mares' Hurdle following the last-flight fall of Benie Des Dieux]. That was our first G1 success and it meant a hell of a lot, but it was so different. Maybe I wouldn't have won, but the flights are there to be jumped. It was a bit like a boxer who is ahead after seven rounds and is then knocked out. I was very pleased for Roksana's owner Mrs Faulks, but this feels different.

"We enjoyed Tuesday, but now we have more to celebrate. Tolley Dean, our head man, is at home - he rides this horse every day and is a massive part of this success."

2.10pm £100,000 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 179y

1 Ch'Tibello (The Can't Say No Partnership) Dan Skelton 8-11-05 Harry Skelton 12/1

2 We Have A Dream (Simon Munir & Isaac Souede) Nicky Henderson 5-11-11 Daryl Jacob 14/1

3 Countister (J P McManus) Nicky Henderson 7-10-06 Barry Geraghty 18/1

4 Whiskey Sour (Luke McMahon) Willie Mullins IRE 6-11-03 Ruby Walsh 5/1f

Time 4m 4.85s

24 ran

Distances: 1½, hd, 4½

Tote   Win: £12.20             Places: £2.70, £3.60, £5.30, £2.20 Exacta: £220.20

Dan Skelton - 4th winner at The Festival

Harry Skelton - 3rd winner at The Festival

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