Cyborgo enjoys the very happiest of returns

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The Independent Online

reports from Cheltenham

Bitter misfortune had pursued Martin Pipe throughout the first two days of the Festival, but the former champion finally forced his way into the winners' enclosure yesterday when Cyborgo proved in the Stayers' Hurdle that Pipe has still got the knack of saddling winners first time up.

Yesterday's race was Cyborgo's first visit to a racecourse since the same event 12 months ago, when he was runner-up to Dorans Pride, and had he been even a pound short of peak fitness, he would have finished second once again.

In classic Pipe style, he set out to win from the front, and by the home turn had burned off all but Mysilv, who was running for the second time in two days after finishing sixth in the Champion Hurdle. There was not a hint of fatigue, though, as the mare swept past Cyborgo on the run to the last, and it was only with frantic assistance from David Bridgwater that Cyborgo was able to reclaim the lead a few strides from the line.

"I was very confident that he was fit enough to win. He will now go for the French Champion Hurdle, and all that David said coming back today was `won't he be a chaser'."

Pipe's Born To Be Wild was one of the casualties in a dramatic Triumph Hurdle, the victim of a first-flight melee in which Debutante Days, Darter and Big Threat also departed. Three more went at the second, while Embellished was brought down on the run to the penultimate flight. Charlie Swan, riding Magical Lady, was deemed responsible for this last incident, and his mount was disqualified from her eventual second place behind Paddy's Return.

Swan was banned for six days, meaning he will miss the first two days of the Grand National meeting. Few would doubt that his mount would have gone very close to winning but for the interference.

Paddy's Return, ridden by Richard Dunwoody, was the second winner of the Festival for Ferdy Murphy, his trainer. "This race was always the plan," Murphy said. "Dunwoody is the boss, he decided to go wide because he thought there might be a bit of carnage and as usual he was proved right. This horse could turn into a Champion contender, but he will also stay further.''

While not officially an Irish-trained winner, Paddy's Return was the next best thing, trained by an Irishman and owned by another, Paddy O'Donnell, landlord of the Crown pub in Cricklewood. "I had a few pounds on at 33- 1," O'Donnell said, and then, you suspect, a few more.

Pipe's change of fortune continued in the Cathcart Chase, with Challenger Du Luc claiming the weakest of the Festival's novice chases, while owner JP McManus was surely looking forward to his next cheque from the bookmakers after Elegant Lord's easy win in the Foxhunters' Chase. The winner was backed down to 3-1 favour-ite - the only one of the entire three-day meeting to oblige - from 9-2, with reported bets including two of pounds 40,000 to pounds 10,000. McManus would only admit afterwards that he had "been in the trenches".

Elegant Lord was the seventh Irish-trained winner - equalling their best- ever score set in 1977, and completed a personal double for Enda Bolger, his jockey, whose two targets for 1996 were to meet Bruce Springsteen and win the Foxhunters'. Having completed the first leg in New York earlier this year, the only serious danger to the second was that he might become dizzy from constant rubbernecking and fall off.

"This is the first time that I've got over the last fence at the Festival,'' Bolger said. He rode half as many winners as Richard Dunwoody, whose success on Paddy's Return meant he resisted the late challenge of Bridgwater to take the Ritz Club Trophy.