Cheltenham: Champion Hurdle is no Pipe dream

Trainer lands biggest win of his career with Tamarinbleu but then tops the victory just 30 minutes later
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The Independent Online

Tomorrow night's Christmas party at Pond House will have extra glitter after events here yesterday. The festivities were launched in time-honoured Pipe-stable-at-Cheltenham style: a big-race double by unchallenged all-the-way winners. The sparkle came from Osana, who galloped his way into Champion Hurdle reckoning with an eight-length victory in the Grade Two trial under Paddy Brennan; thefizz from Tamarinbleu, whose enthusiastic jumping for Denis O'Regan earned 85,000 in the Gold Cup.

Osana's rivals included the reigning hurdles king Sublimity,who was making his seasonal debut, and Brennan's trailblazing starting with a flyer from the gate on the improving five-year-old ensured that any ring-rustiness would be exposed. His tactics worked perfectly; Sublimity moved smoothly through in the closing stages but ran out of puff on the final hill and faded to fourth as Osana, with a run here last month under his girth and receiving weight, found another gear.

Brennan, deputising for injured stable jockey Tom Scudamore, said: "They said he was ready for this, and he meant business all the way. It was the first time I'd ridden a two-mile hurdler of his class, and what impressed me was the way he quickened away from them after the last." That was what caught trainer David Pipe's eye, too, for Osana's nearest challenger was Katchit, never previously beatenup the famous, gruelling hill. "Ours was a bit close to the last," he said, "and Katchit was coming. We know how brave Katchit is, but we ran away from him. I had thought that this might be our big day, that if we were going to beat these good ones it would be getting weight from them. This horse's future will be over fences, and I'm looking forward to sending him chasing. But now I might just wait three months." Despite his defeat, Sublimity retains his place at the head of the Champion Hurdle market, albeit at eased odds: the best price is Paddy Power's 5-1. Osana is among Harchibald, Sizing Europe and Katchit in the bettingchasing pack at around 8-1. Sublimity's trainer, John Carr, was disappointed, but not dismayed, by his charge's performance, admitting he might have left him underdone.

"Philip [Carberry] said he just blew up going to the last," he said. "I thought his class might carry him through and even if he didn'twin he'd be closer. But I was afraid I'd boil him over too soon in the season if I did too much at home."

Sadly, one of the regulars among the two-mile elite will be seen no more. Macs Joy, from Jessica Harrington's yard, broke a hind leg during the race, an injury which proved fatal.

Although the finish of the feature chase was between representatives of the powerful Pipe and Paul Nicholls stables Le Volfoni chased Tamarinbleu home it was the second strings of both.

Tamarinbleu was O'Regan's first ride for the Pipe stable. "The plan was to make it and if anything wanted to go faster, they were welcome to," he said. "His jumping was tremendous, he was taking lengths out of them at every fence without using up petrol."

The 25-year-old Irishman was another to double up, having taken the novices' chase on Tidal Bay for his own stable, that of Howard Johnson. The five-year-old caught Gold Medallist, who made a highly encouraging return to action after two seasons off, between the last two for a comfortable five-length success.