Big-name stars are creeping out from the wilderness as the jumps season gets into full swing, and Dan Skelton is eager to take the wraps off his ultra-talented Grade 1 winner Allmankind at Cheltenham this Saturday.
The four-year-old was a high-class juvenile in Britain last season and a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle after his easy victory in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle over the festive period. However, he could only finish third behind Burning Victory at the festival and would have been fourth had Goshen not unseated Jamie Moore at the last when he had the race at his mercy.
The son of Sea The Moon is earmarked to begin his new campaign in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle at Prestbury Park, and his trainer has been pleased with how his stable star has been training ahead of this weekend's assignment.
Skelton said: "I've been really happy with him pre-season. He's got a penalty for winning his Grade 1 but you have to live with that. It's a good competitive race for four-year-olds, but I'm glad he can take them on once more before he has to take on the older horses. He's fit and should go very well, it's as simple as that.
"He did really well over the summer. He went back to the Gredleys [owners] and we've managed to do plenty of work with him. He hasn't missed a day and I'm looking forward to it and getting him going."
Allmankind, who is as big as 50-1 for the Champion Hurdle, announced himself on to the stage with an impressive performance over course and distance last November, and – just like Goshen – his relentless galloping of rivals into submission was a feature in his races.
While Skelton believes the summer break will have helped his progression, he is cautious that he must pass this test against fellow second-season juveniles before plans for the future can be drawn up.
"We've got to get through this first," he added. "Last year he was beating these horses, but we've got to see how we compare against them this year. Four-year-olds mature at different rates, some mature extremely fast and have done well over the summer. They're probably better than a lot of horses they weren't as good as last year.
"We have to see where we stand. I'm very happy with him and I presume he's improved for a summer, but of course the run on Saturday will tell us if he has."
Poli primed for stable debut
While plans will remain fluid for Allmankind until after his Cheltenham exertions, a more straightforward path has been set for his new recruit Don Poli.
A three-time Grade 1 winner in the past, the Darren and Annaley Yates-owned gelding has switched to Skelton's yard following a point-to-point campaign last year with Nick Pearce, which culminated with defeat in the Foxhunter at Cheltenham.
The 11-year-old is set to make his debut for the trainer in a veterans' chase at Aintree on Sunday, which forms a part of the Veterans' Series that culminates at Sandown in January, and Skelton is keen to keep him in that company throughout the season.
He said: "Hopefully they'll get plenty of rain and we can go from there. He's done loads and loads of work and he's happy and healthy. We've got to get on and run him because he's fit, but he isn't getting any younger.
"We've got to see where we stand with him nowadays. That [Veterans' Series] looks like his cup of tea at the moment, but he's an old horse and owes no one anything."