Racing: Nicholls and Pipe bring out big guns for finale

Today, snipers' rifles; tomorrow, Sten guns. Then on Saturday, out comes the heavy artillery, the size of that cannon that Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren dragged across Spain in The Pride and the Passion.

Today, snipers' rifles; tomorrow, Sten guns. Then on Saturday, out comes the heavy artillery, the size of that cannon that Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren dragged across Spain in The Pride and the Passion. Which would not be an inappropriate title, either, for the struggle for the jump trainers' championship between Martin Pipe and Paul Nicholls. That battle will reach its climax at Sandown on Saturday and may well go to the final race of the season, the 49th running of the contest now known as the Betfred Gold Cup.

Martin Pipe, going for his 10th title in a row and 15th in all, increased his lead at Plumpton yesterday to £31,231 with three winners (Miss Academy, Shower Of Hail and Argent Ou Or) to two placings (with Leroy's Sister and Earl Of Forestry) from Nicholls, runner-up for the past six years. The earnings trail leads to Towcester today, and then to the two-day festival at Perth.

But a year's effort will all come down to one day, as far as Nicholls is concerned. "We'll be taking seven or eight to Perth, depending on the ground, but then we usually do anyway," he said yesterday. "If the horses are well, they'll run, and we'll keep picking away. There's no point in not, you'd feel silly if you got beat by £3,000 and you hadn't run something that could have run. But Saturday should decide it."

It did last year, when Pipe, after a nip and tuck battle in which the lead changed four times during Cheltenham and Aintree, settled matters by winning three of the six jumping winners at the two-day Sandown meeting. They included the Betfred Gold Cup, taken, nose-rubbingly, by the 25-1 shot Puntal by a short-head from the Nicholls-trained Royal Auclair, a former inmate at Pipe's Pond House.

Pipe ran seven in the three-mile, five furlong Grade Three marathon then, and was responsible for eight of the 21 horses left in this year's race at yesterday's declaration stage: Comply Or Die, Heart Midlotian, Iris Bleu, Jurancon II, Maximize, Stormez, Therealbandit and Zeta's River. Nicholls has three entries, Royal Auclair, who shares top weight with Therealbandit, Inca Trail and Whitenzo.

But there are even bigger guns, in terms of class anyway, being primed for the preceding two-mile Celebration Chase, which will feature a showdown between the best chaser in each of the two yards, Azertyuiop for Nicholls and Well Chief for Pipe. It will be the fourth time the two cracks have met; the score is 2-1 to Azertyioup, but Well Chief prevailed most recently, when runner-up to his rival's third in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Azertyuiop's stablemates Armaturk, Le Roi Miguel and Le Duc are also among the 16-strong entry for the £58,000 first prize and Well Chief may be backed up by Seebald, Locksmith, Golden Alpha and Contraband.

In the Betfred - which carries a prize fund of £150,000, with £87,000 to the winner and money down to sixth - all three of Nicholls's candidates are due to run. Inca Trail, a brother to not only Best Mate but naughty Cornish Rebel, who let slip the Scottish Grand National on Saturday, will be ridden by Ruby Walsh; Royal Auclair, runner-up in the Grand National 10 days ago, by Christian Williams; and Sandown specialist Whitenzo by Jamie Snowden.

"I've had this race in mid for a while for Inca Trail," said Nicholls, "and he's got a sensible weight. Like Cornish Rebel, he can be quirky, but Ruby gets on well with him. Royal Auclair has taken his run at Aintree well."

Pipe, though, is unsure which of his octet will line up, but nominated one definite in Stormez, runner-up two years ago but pulled up in the Scottish National. "We'll sift through them during the week and see," he said yesterday. "Stormez looks sure to run. He did not do a lot last time but we have been schooling him."

There could, however, be a party pooper. In addition to its regular purse, there is a £250,000 bonus on offer to any horse able to win after scoring at the Cheltenham Festival. The only two qualifiers are Juveigneur and the French raider Kelami, ante-post favourite since missing the cut in the National. A quarter of a million is a powerful incentive and the progressive seven-year-old, due to be ridden by Robert Thornton, is reported bang on target by his trainer, François Doumen. "At this time of the year, horses usually have bags under their eyes as they need a rest," he said yesterday. "But Kelami is not showing anything like that. His final workout this morning was very satisfactory. Sandown is a hard track and the railway fences always take some jumping, but he keeps suprising me with the ease in the way he is improving."

¿ The owner Andy Beard has been called before the Jockey Club on charges that he laid two of his horses to lose. Beard, who currently does not have any horses in training, is alleged to have used Betfair to lay Moscow Mary at Wolverhampton on 26 December, 2003, and Middleton Grey at Southwell the following day. Moscow Mary finished eighth of nine, while Middleton Grey finished fourth of 11. Both were trained by Tony Newcombe and ridden by Simon Whitworth.

¿ Today's card at Newcastle has been abandoned due to waterlogging.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...

SAP BI CONSULTANT

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...

Infrastructure Manager - Southampton - Up to £45K

£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice