Racing: Fragrant Dawn a boost for Pipe

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THE smile on Martin Pipe's face was for more than yesterday's victory. Fragrant Dawn's win in the Tripleprint Gold Cup here not only justified his trainer's judgement in running him but also provided a chink of light for the virus-plagued Nicholashayne stable.

The nine-year-old was given a peach of a ride by Declan Murphy, whose knack of settling a horse and getting it jumping sweetly is a pleasure to watch. Murphy let Fragrant Dawn lob in the chasing group as Egypt Mill Prince and General Pershing set off in front, stole quietly closer running down the hill, and produced his horse to take Young Hustler, who saw off Second Schedual before the last, in the final 100 yards of the two-mile five-furlong contest for a three-length victory.

Pipe acquired Fragrant Dawn from David Elsworth's yard at the Doncaster August Sales at a cost of 25,000 guineas, and yesterday added more than that to his trainer's seasonal total. Pipe said: 'Just about everyone I asked said two miles was his limit. But I thought he'd get further, Jonothan Lower at home thought he would, and Declan did, too. So we ran him, and told everyone to back him.'

Among those who did were the gelding's new owners, the racing-mad Mercer family. Fragrant Dawn runs in the colours of father Stuart (a bookmaker) and son Darren (a stockbroker); another son, Grant, held his wedding reception at Wetherby races last month.

They were ecstatic - 'That will pay for the horse and Christmas' - but less happy was Pipe's stable jockey Richard Dunwoody, who had got off the winner to ride Egypt Mill Prince. Pipe said: 'The connections wanted an early decision, and it didn't seem right for me to keep him off the favourite for what was then a 33-1 shot, especially as the horses had been running badly.'

Lower would have ridden Fragrant Dawn but he, like some of his boss's horses, has flu. Pipe added: 'The situation with the virus has been very worrying, but they seem to be improving and we hope the corner has been turned.'

The Tripleprint was the second leg of a 104-1 big-race double for Murphy, who swooped at the last on Staunch Friend to win the Bula Hurdle, beating Halkopous five lengths. The race provided the trainer Mark Tompkins with a one-two, but as a dress rehearsal for the Champion Hurdle it was robbed when Granville Again and King Credo fell independently at the fourth flight.