Racing: Cyborgo fuels Cheltenham Pipe dream

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The Independent Online
It is a fortunate trainer whose yard is home to more Cheltenham contenders than there are races at the Festival to run them in, but then Martin Pipe has never been a man to operate on anything but a grand scale. No fewer than 30 members of the champion's string are potential challengers at next week's meeting, and yesterday Pipe offered some helpful hints to punters wishing to finalise their investment portfolios.

Remarkably, Pipe has seven entries for the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle alone, but it is his two runners in the Gold Cup a week today, Cyborgo and Challenger Du Luc, which are uppermost in his thoughts. Though it is one of the few major events which has so far eluded him - and the shameful circumstances surrounding the failure of Carvill's Hill when favourite five years ago are still painfully fresh in the memory - the trainer has long believed that Cyborgo offers his best chance of winning a Gold Cup.

"The bookmakers give my two horses no chance," Pipe said yesterday, "but I can assure you I fancy them both to run big races. Cyborgo is only seven and whatever happens this year we've got a few more cracks at the race with him to come.

''Challenger is very well in himself and must have a good chance. If you took out his fall behind Coome Hill in the Hennessy and his poor run at Cheltenham afterwards he's done nothing wrong, winning the Murphy's and a little race at Wincanton."

Pipe has clearly not consulted the bookmakers' lists in the last few days, since Cyborgo has been backed from 25-1 down to as low as 14-1 following the news that Charlie Swan will take the ride.

Other members of his team will also go to post with significant ante- post support behind them, most notably Make A Stand, the Tote Gold Trophy winner, who will be joined in the Champion Hurdle by Pridwell, who finished third to Collier Bay 12 months ago and generally runs well at Cheltenham.

"Make A Stand will be ridden by Tony McCoy and is well but I don't know if he's going to handle the ground as they are watering and he would prefer it on the fast side," Pipe said, "but he's earned his place in the line- up, and Pridwell could sneak a place again."

It may be significant, though, that the trainer looked elsewhere when asked to nominate his best chance of a winner next week. "You can't have bankers at Cheltenham as it is much too difficult," he said, "but White Sea [Triumph Hurdle] is very good and has to be one of my best chances over the three days," explained the trainer. White Sea appeared to receive a somewhat lacklustre ride from Swan at Newbury last month when the filly finished second to Kerawi, but the Irishman will keep his place next week.

If his luck is in, meanwhile, Pipe could conceivably return home with half a dozen winners to his credit, such is the depth of his squad. "I think Kailash, Nordic Breeze and maybe Daraydan will go for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Deano's Beeno and possibly Daraydan could go for the Royal SunAlliance, but it's too early for definite plans for those races at the moment.

"Indian Tracker could run a big race for us in the Royal SunAlliance Chase, and I hope Doctoor gets a penalty in the County Hurdle as that means he will have won the Imperial Hurdle [at Sandown on Saturday]."

Yet Pipe knows only too well that winners are not the only measure of a good Festival. Three of his runners failed to return from last year's meeting, including Draborgie, who broke a leg when favourite for the Arkle Trophy.

Or Royal, like Draborgie one of Pipe's many imports from the French jumping circuit, will contest the same race on Tuesday. "He's very, very well but he's got it all to do as he's got [David Nicholson's] Mulligan to beat and that's a tall order as that one is likely to be most people's banker of the week on what he's done so far. But whatever happens, what matters is that the horses come back in one piece.''