LiveScore Racing News: Skelton has Cheltenham aim for Nube Negra
Trainer Dan Skelton has confirmed Nube Negra will not race again before the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival following a disappointing Tingle Creek showing.
The seven-year-old was beaten by half a length in last season's prestigious Grade One at Prestbury Park as Put The Kettle On rode to victory.
He was then well beaten at Punchestown in the William Hill Champions Chase as the Willie Mullins-trained Chacun Pour Soi stormed to a five-length win.
Nube Negra's seasonal reappearance came in the Grade Two Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month and he was steered home to victory six lengths clear of Paul Nicholls' Politologue.
Notably, he got one over on Put The Kettle On, who could only finish third in the four-horse field.
As a result, Skelton's charge was expected to fare well and seriously challenge the market favourite Chacun Pour Soi.
But both horses performed below par at Sandown and Nube Negra ended fourth out of five, 12 lengths adrift of winner Greaneteen, ridden home by Bryony Frost.
Skelton has now confirmed Nube Negra will not run again until his second crack at the Queen Mother Champions Chase, as he wants to ensure he is as fresh as possible.
He said: "He's grand — nothing ventured, nothing gained.
"Obviously he can be better than the result and we'll just keep him fresh now until Cheltenham. Clearly, he has to be fresh, so we'll go straight for the Champion Chase."
It was an underwhelming weekend for the Skelton stable with Third Time Lucki and Allmankind also coming up short.
The former was competing in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown but faded out of contention to end the race 16 lengths behind Edwardstone while the same fate befell Allmankind at Peterborough.
However, Skelton was keen not to make any excuses for his horses.
The Lodge Hill handler added: "There were no excuses with any of them going into the races. We learned a little bit from each of the runs, as you would hope you would — you always learn, whether you win or lose.
"Third Time Lucki never really got into the same rhythm jumping-wise as he did at Cheltenham last time.
"It was a third run in seven weeks and maybe he can be a little fresher as well, but I'm not making excuses for these horses. I was happy with them going into it and like I said, you learn from it."