Cheltenham Diary: Can Martin Pipe finally win his dad's race?


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The Independent Online

When Cheltenham named a race after Martin Pipe in 2009, it seemed a near certainty that son David, a chip off the old block when it comes to readying one for a valuable handicap, would soon be farming "Dad's race" on a regular basis.

But it has not worked out that way. It started promisingly enough when Big Eared Fran was third in the inaugural running, but since then it has gone from bad to worse with a succession of gambles going belly-up, including Gevrey Chambertin, a spectacular flopping favourite last year.

Pipe now relies on Vieux Lion Rouge, the winner of six of his seven starts, and, sure enough, punters have taken the plunge again.

The stable is in red-hot form this week and this clearly talented French-bred gelding might well be a handicap snip. But you have been warned.

Simon's pole dance to beat the fog

It was all looking a bit ominous when the fog rolled in over Prestbury and hadn't shifted by lunchtime, but Cheltenham head of racing, Simon Claisse, insisted he was never bothered: "As long as the judge can see the half-furlong pole, we are officially OK to race and if

it had got to the stage where he couldn't, I would have gone out there myself and moved it!"

Legend Arkle's Gold anniversary

It's fair to say that today's Gold Cup hasn't really captured the public's imagination, unlike 50 years ago when Arkle leapt into folklore by beating Mill House for the first of his three wins in chasing's Blue Riband event.

It is also the 20th anniversary of Peter O'Sullevan's last Gold Cup commentary for the BBC. The Voice of Racing, 96 last week, hasn't been at this Cheltenham Festival, the first time he has missed the meeting since before the war.

Pineau shows his National threat

Pineau de Re can still be backed at 50/1 for the Grand National, despite catching the eye when completing his unconventional preparation for the big race with a close third in a thrilling finale to the Pertemps Hurdle.

The versatile 11-year-old often promises more than he delivers, but Dr Richard Newland, his trainer, was pleasantly surprised by his willing response to pressure this time and so now it's all systems go for Aintree.

The judge needed a magnifying glass to determine that Fingal Bay had beaten Southfield Theatre by one-and-a-half pixels, the second time this week that trainer Philip Hobbs has won out in a head-bobber following Balthazar King's victory in the Cross Country Chase.

An easy Ryder as Britain beat Irish

Ireland had more winners than Great Britain for the first time ever at last year's Festival (14-13), a feat which prompted the Cheltenham executive to launch a trophy.

A bit like golf's Ryder Cup, the first to 14 wins lifts the Prestbury Cup. Ireland went into the third day 9-5 behind, but there was no spirit-of-Medinah comeback as GB rattled off the first five races to clinch the prize with more than a day to spare.