Racing: Die cast for hero's role in Pipe's title fight

The Classic trials circus rolls up at Newbury today but the jumps season, which is normally in the process of slackening the guys by now, still has its big top pitched firmly in view. The reason is the compelling battle between Martin Pipe and Paul Nicholls for the trainers' championship and today's Scottish Grand National at Ayr is a proper six-pointer. The title is gained through earnings, not winners; Pipe, going for his 15th in a row, is some £55,000 ahead of Nicholls, the runner-up for the past six campaigns, and Scotland's chasing showpiece carries a purse of £120,000. Pipe sends four runners to the fray: Comply Or Die, Stormez, Iris Bleu and Control Man. Nicholls relies on just a pair, Cornish Rebel and Colourful Life.

The Classic trials circus rolls up at Newbury today but the jumps season, which is normally in the process of slackening the guys by now, still has its big top pitched firmly in view. The reason is the compelling battle between Martin Pipe and Paul Nicholls for the trainers' championship and today's Scottish Grand National at Ayr is a proper six-pointer. The title is gained through earnings, not winners; Pipe, going for his 15th in a row, is some £55,000 ahead of Nicholls, the runner-up for the past six campaigns, and Scotland's chasing showpiece carries a purse of £120,000. Pipe sends four runners to the fray: Comply Or Die, Stormez, Iris Bleu and Control Man. Nicholls relies on just a pair, Cornish Rebel and Colourful Life.

Today's marathon is not a two-stable race; there are 16 others trying to spoil the private party. But in practice, and by process of elimination, it may be. This is not a contest that tends to be taken by a horse out of the handicap, nor by one who used the Grand National as a warm-up.

That leaves seven to consider, which include the six from Pond and Manor Farms. One from either camp, Cornish Rebel (Nicholls) and Comply Or Die (Pipe), have held sway at the front of the betting, in line with another of the race's signposts, the one that points to the good record of novices. This pair finished second and third in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham; Comply Or Die was three lengths behind Trabolgan with Cornish Rebel the same distance adrift of him.

Cornish Rebel, Best Mate's younger, quirkier brother, has a 3lb pull and the assistance of Ruby Walsh, going for the Grand National grand slam after Silver Birch (Welsh), Numbersixvalverde (Irish) and Hedgehunter (Aintree). Comply Or Die is Timmy Murphy's pick from his stable's quartet, all bearing the colours of David Johnson. Yesterday, through a treble at Ayr with Locksmith, Joaaci and Commercial Flyer, Johnson became the first jump owner ever to record a seasonal century.

The two who ran in the National both unseated their riders, today's classy top-weight Take The Stand at the Chair, and Double Honour at the 21st. Despite now running of a mark that reflects his excellent second in the Gold Cup, Take The Stand deserves respect. But he will be hard pressed to give over a stone to Comply Or Die (3.25), a tough youngster who has given indications that four miles and a furlong will be within his range.

If the bookmakers are to be believed, the only colts' Classic eliminator that has mattered this spring has been the one that took place behind closed Godolphin doors at Nad El Sheba on Monday. After an apparently inconclusive following few days at Newmarket, its winner, Dubawi, is now red-hot for the 2,000 Guineas 14 days hence.

But there are those who will be hoping that today's Greenham Stakes at Newbury is more than merely hoop-jumping, for five of the nine runners for the Group 3 seven-furlong contest are still engaged on the Rowley Mile. The pick is one who does not hold the Guineas entry, Indesatchel (3.45), who bolted in on the Curragh 13 days ago in the style of a colt who had more than trained on. Excusez-Moi, a wide-margin winner at Yarmouth after a sojourn in Dubai, could be best of the home side.

The fillies' prep has a better record than the colts' race in spotlighting Guineas winners, four in the past nine years, and seven of today's 11 runners have the big-race entry. Clear Impression (3.10) may have the fitness edge over Penkenna Princess.

The great trainers Fred Darling and John Porter must be spinning in their graves to know that their names have been eradicated from today's racecard, but under any title the 12-furlong heat for older horses offers that good thing, a potential Group One horse unpenalised in Group 3 company, DAY FLIGHT (nap 2.05).

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Genghis (Ayr 2.45)

NB: Stormez

(Ayr 3.25)

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