Ascot: Pipe conjures Magic defeat

'All credit to him, but it will be a different story at Cheltenham' warns Nicholls
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The Independent Online

Ted Walsh, Irish trainer, media pundit and father of top jockey Ruby, summed it up neatly, if obviously. As he descended the grandstand here yesterday, having just watched his boy beaten on the odds-on favourite Twist Magic in the Grade One feature, he said, with some exasperation: "Those Pipe horses just don't stop, do they?"

Martin Pipe, the 15-times champion trainer, specialised in the art of pushing the lactic- acid wall away for his equine athletes. His son and successor, David, has picked up the same coaching manual. In atrocious, sodden conditions Tamarinbleu, the winner of the Victor Chandler Chase, and Lough Derg, who took the preceding Grade Two Hurdle, kept going, and going, with the metronomicefficiency so typical of inmates of their Somerset yard.

Both were ridden by Tom Scudamore, though each execution was different. Tamarinbleu put his rivals to the sword from the front, leaving the 4-5 shot Twist Magic bogged down in the mud 12 lengths behind him; Lough Derg reeled in the wide-margin leader Warne's Way in the last four strides.

Tamarinbleu was stepping down in distance to yesterday's extended two miles, but up in class having taken a valuable two-and-a-half-mile handicap at Cheltenham last time. Twist Magic closed to within two lengths three fences from home, but his supporters' hopes were short-lived.

"It looked as if he was about to pick us off," said Pipe, "but we knew ours would stay, and the testing ground put the emphasis on stamina. And we also knew he's not only an improving horse – the blinkers have made a huge difference – but a versatile one."

With that last quality in mind, Pipe has entered the eight-year-old not only for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, for which he is now as short as 5-1, but also the Ryanair Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. A winner of the Festival two-mile chasing crown has yet to emerge from Pond House; the first of the five to be placed was Beau Ranger 19 years ago, in the same White family colours as yesterday's hero.

Despite his defeat, Twist Magic has retained his position as Champion Chase favourite at a general 2-1. "We'll know not to run him on that sort of ground again," said his trainer, Paul Nicholls. "David has nicked a good prize here, and all credit to him, but it will be a different story at Cheltenham."

Lough Derg, who had ceded the lead to Warne's Way a mile from home, responded willinglyto his rider's demands to retake his rival, grinding home, head down, by three-quarters of a length. "I was happy he went clear when he did," said Scuda-more. "It gave us time to get back at him."

In the opening juvenile contest, debutant Binocular galloped his way to third favouritism for the Triumph Hurdle with a six-length win after display of jumping that was exceptional. "His forte is his attitude," said rider Mick Fitzgerald. "He just simply wanted to do that."

Binocular carries the same JP McManus colours as the favourite for the four-year-old crown, Franchoek.

The man who will have the pick at Cheltenham, Tony McCoy, returned home from hospital yesterday, a week after damaging a vertebra in a fall.

The Festival starts seven weeks on Tuesday and the Ulsterman has only one focus. He said: "It's the highlight of the year and if I thought I wasn't going to make it it would be a long and sorry seven weeks for me. But the surgery I had went well and my doctor is pretty happy.

"I knew when I was lying on the ground I was not in great shape, but because I think I'm unbreakable I wasn't thinking the worst. All I was thinking about was how soon I could be back on a horse again."