Racing: Our Vic has spark to maintain Pipe's Power supply

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The Independent Online

If the repeated change in identity was a ploy to camouflage the lucrative prize from Martin Pipe then it was a flawed strategy. The Nicholashayne trainer is never far from top gear, but this Open meeting is the first moment of the season when he depresses the accelerator to the floor.

A certain number seems to crop up in relation to Pipe and the three-day meeting. He was the leading trainer here 12 months ago with seven winners, the same number as he recorded to take the previous season's honours. This afternoon, in the Paddy Power, he saddles a seven-year-old carrying 11st 7lb in a race he has already won seven times. Pipe will hope Our Vic does not finish seventh.

The David Johnson-owned gelding has much more than numerical hocus-pocus on his side. For long now a talking horse at a yard which is particularly reticent to talk up its inmates, Our Vic has actually run better in conversation that he has done on the racecourse. His most recent form figures of FPP are not instantly appealing but the first of those letters is, in fact, the main reason for backing him.

It was at this course last December that Our Vic was duelling with Monkerhostin at the final fence when he knuckled over on landing. Whether he would have won that day remains a pointless area of debate and a more relevant point for discussion is that he is now 17lb better off with Monkerhostin, the winner of a race at Exeter recently which will forever be remembered for one horse's death.

In a race that usually goes to a runner around the head of the market, the only doubt about Our Vic is the quality of his jumping now that he is returned to a course which may hold terrors for him. He has schooled and loose-schooled pleasingly in the build-up, but now the lights are on. Even those closest to Our Vic are undecided if he will grow or shrivel in the environment.

"Martin thinks he might be a Gold Cup horse, but I'm not sure he will get the trip. I think tomorrow's trip of two miles five furlongs at Cheltenham is his optimum," Johnson, who also has Therealbandit in the race, said yesterday.

"He is a very good horse, there's no doubt about that, but I think maybe he's just a little temperamental. He may be a bit soft.

"He may just think 'I'm not sure I like this any more' so has to have things his own way. But as far as the handicap goes, he's very well in.

"I know Timmy [Murphy, the jockey] took some time to decide what to ride so I don't think there will be much between him and Therealbandit."

Our Vic (next best 3.20) may not be in the last-chance saloon, but he is not many drinks away. However, such has been the understated confidence emanating from Pipe himself this week he must be afforded another opportunity to show his true worth.

It should be quite a party at Pond House this evening as the yard has a standout prospect in the first televised race in Standin Obligation (2.10), who is unbeaten over hurdles.

Pipe's Stormez has a rather stinky pot pourri of form figures, but the failures of late last season means he gets into today's long-distance handicap chase on the same mark from which he was successful here 12 months ago. If you are going to back STORMEZ (nap 2.45) just once this season make sure it is today.

In the final televised race, a novices' hurdle, others get a chance. The statistics show that when Pipe does not win at this meeting the man who usually takes advantage is Nigel Twiston-Davies, who, along with Patman Du Charmil (3.55), will be taking up a lot of space in today's racecards.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Stormez (Cheltenham 2.45)

NB: Our Vic

(Cheltenham 3.20)