New dog, same old tricks. David Pipe carried on yesterday where his 15-times champion trainer father Martin left off, sending out a finely-honed winner of a major race. And the tall, amiable young man's pleasure in his first high-profile success - that of Timmy Murphy-ridden Our Vic in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby - lit up the grey afternoon. "Brilliant," he said, with a broad smile, "for me, for the yard, for owner David Johnson, for everyone who has supported me. And didn't Timmy give him a marvellous ride?" He did indeed, and not the first one of the afternoon, for it was the third leg of a 591-1 hat-trick. Like the little girl with the curl, Our Vic is very, very good when he's good but horrid when he's not. Yesterday, though, given a silk-handed seasonal introduction by the man in the saddle, the eight-year-old stayed happy and co-operative throughout what was a searching test.
Our Vic was always close to the front rank as Kingscliff took no prisoners in the lead, setting a demanding gallop in soft ground and keeping up his relentless rhythm over the big, stiff fences for nearly two circuits. Iris's Gift, jumping well for his new partner, Dominic Elsworth, and the five-year-old Neptune Collonges, keeping admirable tabs on the battle-hardened older brigade, were right in the mix too.
It was at the final open ditch, the first of four obstacles in the straight, that Our Vic, a 6-1 shot, put his seal on victory. A quite breathtaking leap took him to the front and from then on he was the only one travelling with any verve and pulled away for a seven-length success after popping the last neatly.
Neptune Collonges, made 2-1 favourite on his first try in senior company, was clumsy at the same fence that Our Vic had flown, which knocked the stuffing out of him, but he still stayed on dourly for second. Sir Rembrandt came from off the pace to deprive his stablemate Kingscliff of third, with Iris's Gift completing in fifth.
Our Vic has now won half of his 12 starts over fences, but never before over as far as yesterday's three miles and a furlong. "People have questioned his stamina," added Pipe, "and the home straight here, with four big fences, is a long way. But he's bred to get six miles and he proved it today."
Murphy's ability to kid and sweeten a horse was demonstrated to perfection on Redemption, the quirky 11-year-old who turned over odds-on My Way De Solzen in the Grade Two Hurdle, hardly knew he'd been in a race after being allowed to lob round wide of the action in a slowly run contest. Despite fluffing the last flight, Redemption, from Nigel Twiston-Davies' in-form yard, drew smoothly away to record his first success for nearly three years as the burly 4-9 favourite ran out of puff.
The easiest victor of the day, if not of the season so far, was Neptune Collonges's Paul Nicholls-trained stablemate Desert Quest who, under top-weight, turned the allegedly competitive William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Ascot into a one-horse contest and put himself into the Champion Hurdle reckoning.
The six-year-old barely came off the bridle as he hit the front going to the last and sauntered away to win by three lengths. "I got there a bit sooner than I wanted," said Walsh. "He's idled in front before. But I knew I'd win all the way, he was running away under me and as soon as I switched into the clear, he came alive. He's deadly." Desert Quest, the 2-1 favourite, landed a gamble described as "seven out of 10" by his punting owner, Harry Findlay.
In Australia yesterday Kieren Fallon narrowly escaped having to make a thoroughly frightening phone call. The Irishman, due to ride Yeats for Aidan O'Brien in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday week, picked up a ban for causing interference as he won on California Dane at Moonee Valley. Local stewards normally stamp heavily on such offences but after Fallon pleaded guilty and pointed to his good disciplinary record in the saddle, 10 days was deemed enough of a penalty. The ban expires at midnight on Monday, the eve of Cup day.
"I am just relieved that I am not having to call Aidan to tell him he needs a new jockey for Yeats," said Fallon. It was the rider's second success down under, more than 20 years after winning at Wyong as an apprentice. He finished fourth on Aqua d'Amore in yesterday's feature, the Cox Plate, won for the second time by nine-year-old Fields Of Omagh on his fifth appearance in what is the Antipodean equivalent of the Arc.