Racing: Pipe's success and sadness

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The Independent Online

Controversy, Victory and tragedy are rarely strangers to Martin Pipe, but rarely can the champion trainer have pulled those life components together as swiftly as he has managed at this year's Cheltenham Festival.

Controversy, Victory and tragedy are rarely strangers to Martin Pipe, but rarely can the champion trainer have pulled those life components together as swiftly as he has managed at this year's Cheltenham Festival.

It was a sombre Pipe who arrived at Prestbury Park yesterday following the numbing loss of Valiramix in the previous afternoon's Champion Hurdle. The trainer was able to adopt a more pleasant mask later when first Ilnamar and then Blowing Wind reaffirmed him as not only the dominant force in the country as a whole, but also at the Festival in particular. Those winners represented his 26th and 27th winners at the annual Cotswolds jamboree.

The first victory, though, was achieved at a price, both to Pipe's pocket and any notion that he plays by Corinthian rules. The presence of Pond House's Magnus, the topweight, in the Coral Eurobet Handicap Hurdle meant that 16 horses had to compete from weights greater than their official handicap rating dictated. However, five of Pipe's representatives, Ilnamar included, were able to run from their proper marks.

That in itself was no misdemeanour, but Mangus's performance in the race was. The hugely expensive gelding was locked at the back of the field by the Irish jockey Barry Geraghty and, after a mistake at the sixth, was allowed to come home in his own time, 25th of the 26 finishers. You are meant to attempt to win at the Festival.

The racecourse stewards were not impressed and Geraghty was suspended for 12 days under rule 158 of the Jockey Club, which deals with non-triers. Magnus was banned from running for 40 days and, as the Pipe team agreed that Geraghty had been riding to instructions, the trainer himself was fined £2,000.

"It's totally wrong," Pipe said. "It's just stupid. They probably got the idea because he was top-weight, but the horse was there to do his best to win. He's been flying at home. I'm very disappointed for the jockey, but an appeal would probably be a waste of time. Have you ever dealt with stewards?"

Ilnamar's success at 25-1 (£92.70 on the Tote) was a first Festival win for Rodi Greene, one of the Nicholashayne foot soldiers. Just under two hours later, Blowing Wind led home a stable forecast as he caught Lady Cricket and Tony McCoy close home in the Mildmay of Flete Handicap Chase.

Pipe appeared to accept two winners and a £2,000 fine as a fair trade off. Certainly it was an improvement on the day before when Valiramix had to be destroyed after breaking a shoulder. The little man admitted it been an effort to get to Cheltenham for the second day of the meeting.

"It was the lowest day," Pipe said. "I didn't want to come today after I looked at that empty box this morning. He was really a very, very good horse and nothing is going to replace him.

"I've had a great response from the public, other trainers and the press and all I want now is for the rest to come home safe and sound. Whether they win or not doesn't count."

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