Club fines Pipe for Encore

Greg Wood reports on the verdict in a top trainer's case of too little, too late
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Martin Pipe, five times the champion National Hunt trainer, and Jonothan Lower, one of his retained jockeys, were yesterday each fined £750 over the running and riding of Encore Un Peu at Warwick on 15 November.

The Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee decided, in the words of a spokesman, that "basically the horse was not given a proper run".

It was the first time that Pipe had been found guilty of an offence under Rule 151, which concerns "non-triers".

He was adjudged to have breached Rule 151 (iii), which states that trainers must give adequate riding instructions and not give orders which would prevent a horse winning. Lower was found guilty under section (ii) of the same rule, the Committee decidingthat he did not give his mount a full opportunity to win.

Encore Un Peu was the beaten favourite in the Ashorne Novice Hurdle at Warwick, but was beaten four lengths by Fourth In Line after receiving what the racereaders of Timeform Perspective described as a "puzzling ride, racing close up but not asked to go about his business immediately as the winner went on and staying on strongly on the run-in."

Encore Un Peu's performance did not prompt an inquiry by the local stewards at the time, but the Club's monitors subsequently viewed a video of the race and decided that an inquiry should be held.

Pipe and Lower brushed aside reporters as they got into a waiting taxi outside the Jockey Club's headquarters in Portman Square. All Pipe would say was: "I am very disappointed with the result."

Though many spectators at Warwick last month felt that the performance of Encore Un Peu was worthy of an inquiry, Pipe is generally perceived - even by embittered betting shop punters who detect conspiracy at every turn - to run his horses on their merits.

The loss of £750 will not hurt him unduly, but the perceived slight to his reputation almost certainly will.

Some view non-triers as an inevitable part of the sport, particularly when many small stables are struggling for survival financially. An occasional betting coup, with a horse who has a favourable handicap mark, is seen as a way to keep afloat.

In almost any novice hurdle, it is possible to see runners towards the rear of the field who are "not too busy", perhaps because their trainers wish them to receive a gentle introduction to racing.

By fining one of the country's leading handlers under Rule 151, the Jockey Club is clearly attempting to signal that no-one is above suspicion.