Racing: Pipe anticipates call of the Wild

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The Independent Online
The manager of Martin Pipe's hotel in Tenerife will notice a flurry of telephonic activity on his switchboard at 3.05pm British time today when Pipe attempts to follow the fortunes of his Gold Cup contender, Rushing Wild, in the Anthony Mildmay, Peter Cazalet Chase at Sandown. The 'H' word - Holiday - is evidently not the blasphemy it once was in the champion trainer's lexicon.

Tip to the hotel proprietor: keep an eye on that phone bill, because the phrase 'vacation' is strictly relative when Pipe boards a plane, laden with form books, to rest the increasingly troublesome leg he injured in car and riding accidents. On an eight-day break in the Bahamas a few years back, Pipe ran up a tab of pounds 1,500 calling his assistants at Pond House stables, and with potential Cheltenham Festival runners in action at Haydock, Sandown and Warwick today, he could be spending more time in his room than on the beach.

Rushing Wild is an old-fashioned dark horse who has run just four times outside the esoteric realms of point-to-pointing. In fact, if you disregard the three hunter chases he contested last season, his Gold Cup credentials have been tested just once - and that was in a pounds 5,000 handicap at Wincanton. Still, a champion has to emerge somehow, and the view in the Pipe stable is that Rushing Wild could be a good thing, weights-wise, to beat the reigning but fading Gold Cup winner, Cool Ground, the Hennessy winner, Sibton Abbey, and those distinguished elders, Nick The Brief, Brown Windsor, Kildimo and Seagram, whose Grand National winning jockey, Nigel Hawke, was sacked yesterday and replaced by Dai Tegg. 'I think Nigel has been too sympathetic on him and between them they have not been putting it in,' Barons said.

Pipe describes Rushing Wild as 'a very exciting prospect for whom the sky's the limit'. He could have said the same of the horse's price tag, because an offer of pounds 150,000 has already been declined, and like Jodami, Rushing Wild belongs in that category of fast-rising, monster-sized young chasers who attract the big-money buyers as possible instant Gold Cup winners. Apart from Pipe's enthusiasm, the main foundation for that acquisitiveness is Rushing Wild's victory in the Foxhunters' Trophy at last year's Cheltenham Festival, though it is worth remembering that the horse he beat that day, Ardesee, was a 100-1 shot and would do well to outspeed a shopping trolley.

Problem is, Rushing Wild will be an abysmal price by the time he hauls Pipe out of the sun again, which would encourage you to back Sibton Abbey but for the fact that he has missed significant homework and has been abandoned by his regular jockey, Adrian Maguire, in favour of Cool Ground. The latter's abject recent form looks a little less grim when you recall that it followed a similar pattern 12 months ago. By discarding Sibton Abbey, Maguire is giving up the chance to gain some measure of revenge for the three disqualifications - including On The Twist in the Mildmay/Cazalet Chase - he sustained on this day last year after a mess was made of his weight allowance.

If time runs short, Peter Scudamore could find himself winched from a helicopter on to the back of Rushing Wild because the champion jockey intends to accompany the Triumph Hurdle favourite, Her Honour, at Warwick before flying to Sandown. Whether he makes it or not, Scudamore should score a victory for the jumping fraternity over the encroachments of Flat trainers, as Her Honour is expected to beat Peter Chapple- Hyam's first National Hunt runner, Esprit Fort. Bradbury Star, in the Premier Chase, is another luminary in motion at Warwick.

A more valuable hurdle, the Ladbroke at Leopardstown, is a virtual irrelevancy to British punters, though the event's streetwise sponsors - you know who - have managed to incorporate it into the betting lore of Irish racing. The chief point of interest is the return of Vintage Crop, a high-class horse on the Flat with the potential to become a front-rank Champion Hurdle candidate. Note the name of his trainer, Dermot Weld, and consider that Weld would not be jeopardising Vintage Crop's Cheltenham prospects if he did not think he had a major chance today.

Two other recruits with striking summer form are Dissimulateur (placed in a Group Two race in France) and Inchcailloch, an ex- Roger Charlton horse, who meet in the first at Sandown - where the gifted but clumsy Forest Sun takes on Lake Teereen in the novices' chase. The former champion hurdler, Beech Road, at Warwick, is a fellow resident of the Toby Balding stable seeking to prove that steeplechasing is within his scope.

Another horse inclined to make elephantine jumping errors, Kings Fountain, contests arguably the race of the day, Haydock's Newton Chase, but only if a brain transplant has been carried out in the last fortnight would he be a safe bet to beat the superb Katabatic.

News of that one's victory - along with all today's racing news - should find its way to Tenerife.

(Photograph omitted)