Harry Skelton | Under Starters Orders

Features | 14th January 2022

As the youngest son of Olympic gold medal‐winning showjumper Nick Skelton, the 32‐year‐old has been surrounded by horses all his life.

Name: Harry Skelton

Born: 20 September 1989

Career highlight: Becoming Champion jump jockey in 2020/2021

Interesting fact: Harry married fellow jump jockey Bridget Andrews two years ago.

There was a time when he was leaning towards following the path laid by his father, but he was bitten by the racing bug during a spell working for trainer Reg Hollinshead.

The budding jockey joined Richard Hannon for a year before it dawned on him that he was going to be too heavy to make it as a professional Flat rider.

That’s when his ambitions turned to jump racing. Although from a mainly showjumping background, Harry’s grandfather David had horses with David Nicholson. His dad Nick also owned horses with ‘The Duke’, including smart two‐mile chaser Certainly Strong.

Harry switched to the jumps, setting off to join his older brother Dan Skelton, then assistant trainer, at Paul Nicholls’ powerful Somerset stables with dreams of becoming champion jockey.

It was a dream that turned into reality last season when he came out on top in a pulsating battle with northern‐based Brian Hughes.

Harry’s seasonal tally of 152, which saw him crowned champion for the first time, was a far cry from eight years earlier.

Having ridden out his weight claim, he rode just eight winners in the 2012/2013 season. Like many riders before him, the transition from successful conditional jockey to fully‐fledged professional was proving a bumpy road.

His talent was unquestioned and he clearly had the temperament for the big stage. Victories on Niche Market in the 2009 Irish Grand National when still a 3lbs‐claiming jockey and on Celestial Halo in the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle had proved that.

All he needed was a break. It came from the person he had known his whole life – his brother Dan. In 2013, after nine years with Nicholls, it was time for Dan to set up as a trainer back on the family farm in Warwickshire with Harry as stable jockey.

The winners started to flow and the brothers gave a glimpse of what was to come when Willow’s Saviour, without a win before joining the Skeltons, completed a hat‐trick with victory in The Ladbroke, Ascot’s valuable pre‐Christmas Grade 3 hurdle.

He might have just notched up 26 winners that season but the future was bright. Harry more than doubled his tally the following season and then hit the century mark for the first time in 2016.

The only time he has failed to pass a hundred winners since was when stuck on 97 as the Covid‐19 pandemic cut short the season two years ago.

There have been plenty of big‐race winners as the Skeltons have raised the quality of the team along with number of winners.

Their first Grade 1 success came when Roksana landed the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.

Crack juvenile hurdler Allmankind added another later that year at Chepstow’s Christmas meeting as the brothers cemented their place at jump racing’s top table.

With Dan sending out more runners than any other trainer, the scope for outside rides was limited but there was one important ‘spare’ that thrust Harry into the spotlight in one of the season’s biggest races.

His old boss Nicholls was on the lookout for a rider for Politologue in the Queen Mother Champion Chase as stable jockey Harry Cobden had plumped for stablemate Dynamite Dollars.

Harry got the call. He couldn’t have given the dashing grey a better frontrunning ride as the pair came home nearly ten lengths in front of Dynamite Dollars.

They teamed up again to win last season’s Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown but by the time the Cheltenham Festival came around Dan’s Nubra Negra had burst on to the two‐mile chase scene. They finished a slightly‐unlucky second behind Put The Kettle On but put that right in the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham a few weeks ago with a smooth six‐length defeat of Harry’s old ally Politologue.

It was further proof how far Harry had come. With Nube Negra, Shan Blue, Allmankind, Third Time Lucki, My Drogo and West Cork among a quality‐packed stable of stars to look forward more big‐ race success is virtually guaranteed.

Although Brian Hughes has got the jump on him to be champion jockey, with that sort of fire power, Harry will not be giving up his crown in a hurry.