Racing: Tiutchev puts Pipe back in sight of title summit

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The Independent Online

Before the Martell Cognac Cup yesterday, on the opening afternoon of the Grand National meeting, it was considered that Tiutchev did not have the requisite staying power for his three-mile plus mission. He must have borrowed some from his jockey and trainer.

Before the Martell Cognac Cup yesterday, on the opening afternoon of the Grand National meeting, it was considered that Tiutchev did not have the requisite staying power for his three-mile plus mission. He must have borrowed some from his jockey and trainer.

Victory once more for the immovable combination of Tony McCoy and Martin Pipe took the former further over the horizon in the riders' championship, while the latter returned to familiar territory at the head of the trainers' table. The Somerset showdown continued to the very end of the day when Garde Champetre pulled some shillings back for Paul Nicholls, but Tiutchev's victory made clear Team Pipe's intention to plant the Pond House ensign on the summit once more.

"We have been in front some times and behind at others. It's been close. It's a big three days and this is a fantastic boost for us," David Pipe, the trainer's son and assistant, said. "Tiutchev ran a fantastic race over two miles at Cheltenham last time and had run a great race over three miles in the King George.

"This was the furthest he had tried, but if he's going to get three miles anywhere, he's going to get it here, and the ground was perfect for him. This horse has been a superstar over the years. It would be nice to have some more like him."

Nicholls apart, Tiutchev's most significant victim was First Gold, who was trying to win the race for the third time. The French horse, however, was first caught and then passed on the run-in by the rhubarb-and-custard colours, eventually going down by three and a half lengths.

"He is just a smashing horse and the credit must go to him," McCoy said. "If you can ride a horse like him, who jumps and travels and always tries his hardest, then you'd be happy. He was second to Beef Or Salmon in Ireland, he was second in the King George, he was third in the Champion Chase. He's 11 now and the boss has done a fantastic job training him, aiming him for those big races all year."

Cheltenham form had been confirmed on the first race on the card when the redoubtable Iris's Gift proved he was made of stern stuff to follow up his Stayers' Hurdle victory. The amply proportioned grey is now sure to be crowned the champion staying hurdler, while a new kingdom apparently lies vacant for him next season, when novice chasing will be the sport.

Iris's Gift turned the knobs on on the second circuit yesterday and only Royal Rosa was ultimately able to live with the tempo set by the odds-on favourite, with the grey outlasting his more inexperienced rival by a length and a half. "He's a very tough horse," Jonjo O'Neill, the winning trainer, said. "He's the one we dream of all the time. He's really tough and genuine, and a good jumper as well. I was a bit worried about him [after Cheltenham] as he was a bit quiet for a couple of days, but then he was back to his old self. He was flying again within three or four days."

Iris's Gift is a 5-2 chance to win next year's Stayers' Hurdle, but the smell of birch is already in the air. "He's the most exciting novice chaser I have ever had," O'Neill added. "Please God, he jumps fences as well as he does hurdles."

The trainer Howard Johnson was delighted with the effort of Royal Rosa and confirmed that the runner-up is also set to go chasing next season. "He's just an embryo chaser and I told Graham Wylie [the owner] that when I bought the horse for him. He's still such a big baby that he can't do anything but get better and better."



Richard Edmondson

Nap: Fleet Street

(Aintree 2.35)

NB: Whereareyounow

(Aintree 3.45)

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