Racing: Seventh century for Pipe

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MARTIN PIPE yesterday chalked up his seventh consecutive century through As Du Trefle's win at Leicester, but as it has become rather predictable that the Nicholashayne trainer will overhaul that mark annually, the manner of victory was probably more significant.

Starting the 4-6 favourite for the opening novice hurdle, As Du Trefle, twice successful on the Flat in the French provinces, had only to be pushed out by Peter Scudamore to beat Virkon Venture by 10 lengths and faces a busy schedule.

'The governor will try to win as many as he can with him to see how good he is,' Chester Barnes, Pipe's assistant, said. The final assessment of As Du Trefle's ability could register a high grade and it would be unsurprising if his season culminated at the Cheltenham Festival.

Pipe has gone on to reach 200 winners in each of the last four seasons, and another must be on the cards as he hit three figures only 11 days earlier last term. 'People say our horses have not been running very well, but we have been having a few winners recently,' Barnes said.

Celtic Chief, a former Champion Hurdle runner-up, was 9-4 favourite to give Pipe and Scudamore a double by taking the novice chase but was pulled up and victory went to Shannon Glen.

Six of the first seven horses in Champion Hurdle betting are in action this weekend. The favourite, Mighty Mogul, Muse and Morley Street are entered at Cheltenham on Saturday, while the latter is also engaged in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown 24 hours later where Halkopous, Destriero and Vintage Crop would be among his rivals.