Racing: Nicholls and McCoy steal in to share Pipe's big day

They came to praise Martin Pipe, not to bury him, but there was no escaping the sense of valediction here yesterday. That, after all, is jump racing's way: its weeks of renewal come as the leaves fall and the birds flee. The first meeting of the season here was dedicated to the man who abruptly announced his retirement in April, on the very day he finally surrendered the trainers' championship to Paul Nicholls. Pipe hopes that his son, David, can sustain the legacy of 15 previous titles, but events on the sunlit track conspired only to measure the daunting shadow he casts.

Pipe had begun the day by visiting his father's grave. "I showed him the Racing Post and he had a giggle," he said. The front page of the trade newspaper saluted Pipe, but perhaps what he heard was rather more in the way of a hollow laugh. David saddled runners in all six races, and every time he had a sniff of a winner, something went wrong - most excruciatingly when Abragante arrived at the last fence on the bridle, only to crumple on landing. That race, as if to rub it in, was named the 4,182 Winners In 32 Years Handicap Chase.

The opener, recalling Pipe's first winner at Taunton in 1975, was the Hit Parade Started It All Novices' Hurdle, sponsored by Betfair. After Lou Du Moulin Mas skipped clear of the field, it was cruelly suggested that the race should instead have been named the Paul Nicholls Ended It All Novices' Hurdle. The two men have never disguised a mutual froideur, but Nicholls was deadpan in the winner's enclosure. "Doesn't matter what day it is," he said breezily. "We just try to win, every day."

The balance of power is now such, however, that Nicholls could easily have spent the rest of the afternoon discussing plans for his thriving stable of young stars. Options remain open for Kauto Star himself, following that exuberant comeback at Aintree on Sunday, and Nicholls is treating his versatility as an asset: he can drop him back to two miles on soft ground, and step him up to three on good. In an ideal world, conditions will permit him to try the latter in the King George VI Chase at Christmas, but Nicholls emphasised that Kauto Star should not be backed for the Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles back here in March - for which the bookmakers have him favourite. "It would have to be very testing for him to run, and we all know that's pretty unlikely," he said.

In fairness, much of the afternoon reflected aptly on Pipe. The 34 Festival Winners Handicap Hurdle was won by Monolith, saddled by Len Lungo - the man who rode Hit Parade. Lungo had made the long journey from the Scottish Borders largely as a tribute to Pipe, and his delight was plain to see, though he noted that Monolith had also opened a new chapter. "That was Keith Mercer's first winner for us since becoming stable jockey," he said. "And I hope it's the first of many: he's a great rider, with great hands, and a pleasure to work with."

And then there were the three winners ridden by Tony McCoy, for so long Pipe's ally in their implacable pursuit of winners. In hindsight, whether as cause or effect, McCoy's departure was a signpost to the relative stagnation that would end Pipe's monopoly. But the point is that Pipe has many more heirs than David. His bequest will ultimately be shared by any trainer who wants to be competitive in the profession he transformed. Nicholls himself acknowledges his debt to Pipe's methods, and, of course, the ultimate beneficiary is the horse. Unquestionably jumpers nowadays are fitter than ever for the demands of their calling.

Some of his veterans paraded before racing, led by Bonanza Boy, now a 25-year-old. Though never a natural communicator, Pipe palpably sensed the affection of the crowd who gathered around the paddock and who cheered as he doffed his trilby.

"Bonanza Boy must have been a wonderhorse," he told them. "My son won a hunter-chase on him once. I'm assisting David now. Only he calls it hindering."

For all the teasing, Pipe is clearly confident of his son's qualifications, and his own health problems will not inhibit an unbroken, sprightly contribution. "We've always been open to each other's ideas," he said. "I remember it was David, years ago, who put Pridwell in a race over three miles. I told him he had no chance of staying, which shows what I knew.

"He needs to find new horses, new owners, but he's enjoying life, and getting plenty of winners already."

Chris McGrath

Nap: Turnberry Bay

(Sedgefield 1.50)

NB: Lake Imperial

(Cheltenham 2.45)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn