Racing: Pipe produces National power: Paul Hayward on a new landmark as the champion trainer saddles the first four in Chepstow's feature race

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The Independent Online
'AMAZING. I can't believe it,' Martin Pipe said after saddling the first four home in the Welsh National at Chepstow yesterday. That made two of them, because Peter Scudamore, the jockey who is synonomous with the stable's record- shredding successes, was watching it all on television from the weighing-room at Kempton Park.

A clanger. Wrong meeting. Scudamore had decided, not unreasonably, that his most important engagement on this frosty Monday was at Kempton with the potential champion hurdler, Granville Again, and so had saved himself the anguish of having to choose between Pipe's five runners (as they originally were) in Chepstow's imitation of the great Aintree race. Result: Granville Again was third to the decidedly impressive Mighty Mogul and Pipe captured his fourth Welsh National in five seasons.

Never mind the first four home, it could have been five. Chatam's withdrawal through lameness deprived Pipe of a chance to (nearly) match Michael Dickinson's achievement in saddling the first five past the post in the 1983 Gold Cup, which is one of the few landmarks in jump racing Pipe has yet to pass.

And they say Pipe is having a mediocre season because we are not yet counting the winners in hundreds. Just tens. Believe that if you want to, but however forlorn Scudamore looked yesterday after the Welsh National - and after Richard Dunwoody, his main rival, had won three races at Kempton - it is worth keeping in mind Pipe's capacity for scoring multiple victories at all stages of the season - yesterday, five of the seven races at Chepstow fell to the stable. It can only be hoped that the trainer will be there to see them: crumbling bones in his left leg, a result of a car accident as a teenager, are causing him considerable pain, and Pipe's racecourse appearances are likely to be much rarer next year.

For the quiz-masters, the finishing order in the Welsh National was: Run For Free, Riverside Boy (a 50-1 chance), Miinnehoma and Bonanza Boy, whose reputation for entering a race only when most of the runners are tucking into their evening meal will have to be temporarily suspended after this positively enthusiastic effort. Strangely, it is by means certain that Scudamore would have ridden Run For Free, because he has a particular affection for Miinnehoma.

Not that Run For Free wore a sash and twirled a stick as he led the Pipe squad through their Welsh parade. His mistake seven fences from home would have fired most jockeys all the way to Bristol High Street, and the fact that Mark Perrett survived it says much for his powers of horsemanship as well as Run For Free's unusual conformation. 'The horse has a long neck, and that helped me to stay in the saddle,' Perrett said later.

He also has a major chance in the Gold Cup. So willing were Ladbrokes to disregard Run For Free's one aberration that he is now 5-1 second favourite behind The Fellow for steeplechasing's foremost race, and again it is worth pointing out to the Pipe's- not-what-he-was brigade that the yard now houses three of the first eight in the Gold Cup betting. Rushing Wild (20-1) and Chatam (16-1) are the others, and it occurs to you that after yesterday's action all those rave reviews of The Fellow's victory in the King George VI Chase are already out of date. A one-horse race, the Gold Cup most certainly is not.

Likewise the Champion Hurdle, in which longstanding luminaries like Granville Again, Morley Street and Kribensis continue to retreat in the face of Mighty Mogul and Halkopous. All that might change if Royal Gait, the current champion, wins this afternoon's Bookmakers' Hurdle at Leopardstown, but for now it is useless to look beyond the pair of youngsters who are intimidating their elders at the head of the market.

Take Mighty Mogul. Here is a horse who has run just nine times and was expected to be unsuited by the tightness of Kempton's hurdle course, and yet when Dunwoody urged him to rush clear of Flown and Granville Again in the Christmas Hurdle yesterday it was as if a veteran of Cheltenham Festivals was reasserting himself in the face of unwelcome challenges. Left behind, also, were Gran Alba and Oh So Risky, so the member of staff at David Nicholson's yard who has a 100-1 voucher about Mighty Mogul's chance in the Champion could be holding a sheaf of gold.

'Surprised?' Nicholson said. 'If you saw what he did to Wonder Man (who won the first at Kempton yesterday) on the gallops on Saturday, you wouldn't have been surprised by today, although I always thought he was more of a Cheltenham or Newbury type horse. I thought this track would be a bit sharp for him.'

Sharp - in the bitter sense - will be Jenny Pitman's recollection that she once trained both Mighty Mogul and Wonder Man. Of the 14 runners Nicholson has saddled for Bill and Shirley Robins, the horses' owners, 12 have won, and the reverence with which Bill Robins spoke of Dunwoody yesterday made many listeners certain that riding arrangements must have played a part in the decision to remove Mighty Mogul and Wonder Man, among others, from Pitman's yard. Nicholson offered similar praise for his stable jockey, saying: 'Richard is inspired. He went to Ireland for five rides yesterday just to keep fit.'

He jests, though not about the 'inspired' bit. Dunwoody, after all, could have forsaken Mighty Mogul and gone to Wetherby to ride Waterloo Boy against Katabatic in the Castleford Chase. Again he was proved right as Katabatic beat Waterloo Boy by 10 lengths.

Scudamore will have watched that race, too.

(Photograph omitted)