Cheltenham Open

Racing: Heavenly Gold Cup for Celestial

Champion trainer Pipe proves well up to form with Paddy Power success

It was a day in the sun here yesterday, literally and figuratively, for the ubiquitous team from Nicholashayne, hardly a juggernaut's trundle down the M5. Champion trainer Martin Pipe, jockey Timmy Murphy and owner David Johnson won four of the six prizes on offer, including the big one, the Paddy Power Gold Cup. There was one blip, the flop of much-vaunted Therealbandit, but the day - the middle one of three at the first serious meeting of the jumping season - was in the nature of a reality check for those of Pipe's colleagues who might have had designs on preventing his 15th title. Dream on, guys.

It was a day in the sun here yesterday, literally and figuratively, for the ubiquitous team from Nicholashayne, hardly a juggernaut's trundle down the M5. Champion trainer Martin Pipe, jockey Timmy Murphy and owner David Johnson won four of the six prizes on offer, including the big one, the Paddy Power Gold Cup. There was one blip, the flop of much-vaunted Therealbandit, but the day - the middle one of three at the first serious meeting of the jumping season - was in the nature of a reality check for those of Pipe's colleagues who might have had designs on preventing his 15th title. Dream on, guys.

The afternoon also gave pause for thought about the persistent rumours surrounding strains in the relationship between Pipe and Johnson and the man in the saddle. Murphy took over the hot seat from the hardest of acts to follow, Tony McCoy, and the contrasts between the two are not difficult to spot. One, a recovering alcoholic with a prison sentence for drunken assault on his CV, a wild boy who has lived life with the choke full out; the other a tunnel-visioned ascetic and the most consummate professional the sport has ever known.

Both sides admit that there has had to be a mutual period of adjustment in their working relationships, and body language was as interesting as events on the track throughout the afternoon, but six wins in two days (there was a double on Friday) went a long way towards nipping any possibility of a rift in the bud. Johnson, the self-made millionaire businessman from east London, was admirably frank. "We knew what we were getting, and that he wasn't AP, and it has been a bit of a culture shock on both sides," he said. "But Timmy is a horseman through and through. And as a character, he is becoming more relaxed. We have shaken hands on a 12-month contract and I am perfectly happy with that. It's early days yet but he is riding really well."

After his perfectly executed victory on Celestial Gold in the feature race, Murphy stood on the prize-winners' podium looking gaunt and haunted and even a chaff from a wag that he was trying to emulate his predecessor's habitual demeanour failed to draw a smile. But half an hour later, coming up the hill to victory again on Stormez, the 30-year-old Irishman's face was suitably wreathed. Perhaps it was the sheer fun of the unlikeliness of the win - his mount had jumped badly, but all the fences facing the setting sun were omitted and he stayed on doggedly on the gruelling half-mile run-in - or perhaps it was the fact of receiving a congratulatory text from McCoy between times.

Confidence can be everything, and by the end of the afternoon Murphy stood that bit taller, as if a shadow had lifted. "I knew it would be a difficult business to follow AP," he admitted. "But I try not to put myself under pressure. If you do that, then you start doing things differently and you start making mistakes. And I perhaps suit some of the horses better than AP."

Celestial Gold was a case in point. Murphy held the horse, a raw, relatively inexperienced six-year-old, up at the back as the leaders tore off in unseemly haste in the crystal-bright sunshine below the sparkling green backdrop of Cleeve Hill, before letting him edge into the contest in his own time, wide of the field packing the rail on the swing for home. Fine leaps at the third-last and penultimate obstacles took the pair into the van and a similarly winging crossing of the last, allied to Celestial Gold's proven stamina, left Thisthatandtother pursuing bravely but vainly.

"It looked simple," Murphy said, "but when it works out it is that simple. The plan was to get round from off the pace without getting stopped in a run, because when that happens it can be difficult to get going again. They went off too fast, so I just sat and let the race come to me, and he was a fabulous ride, just dropped his bit for me and jumped super. I was struggling a bit to see the last four fences properly because of the low sun, but he got it right for me." Celestial Gold, a 12-1 shot, had a length and three-quarters to spare over Thisthatandtother, whose progress at a crucial stage was thwarted in among the pack, at the line in giving Pipe his seventh success in the two-and-a-half miler in its various sponsorship guises over the years.

The 3-1 favourite Monkerhostin was five lengths back, with novice Ollie Magern, who cut out much of the running, a creditable fourth, in front of the other Pipe contender, It Takes Time.

"I just did my own thing," Murphy added. "If you watch too many people, it can get you into trouble. If it works out, it works out. If it doesn't, then it was not meant to be." Whether he was talking of the race, or using it as an allegory for life, was not entirely clear.

It says a deal for the strength in depth of the Pipe yard, whose four-timer was instigated by Over The Creek and Vodka Bleu, that the operation was able to claim yesterday's £63,800 prize with what was in effect the number 12 shirt, a late sub for injury-struck stablemate Our Vic.

Celestial Gold, a graduate from the point-to-point academy run by Pipe's son David, is now favourite for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in less than a fortnight's time (cut from 16-1 to 13-2 during the afternoon by Hills) following the eclipse of stablemate Therealbandit in the preceding handicap hurdle. Pipe admitted to being bitterly disappointed by the exciting seven-year-old's showing. "He'd been working at home like a champion," he said. "But that is this game. Ups and downs."

News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own