Those with hard acts to follow can be forgiven for, at times, feeling the pressure. For David Pipe, one of the valves eased open yesterday with the victory of Great Endeavour in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, his first in the valuable chase since acquiring a training licence four years ago. Which would not be a bad achievement, had not his predecessor at the helm of his family's Nicholashayne business been his father Martin.
Pipe senior took the prize a record eight times, a tally that included farming it seven times in 10 years. Before yesterday, Pipe junior had sent out eight unsuccessful runners to the fray. "Not much gets to me," he said, "but I have to admit this was, especially as people kept reminding me. This sort of race is, after all, what we all do it for."
The trainer found himself in the happy position of having barely a moment's concern throughout the two and a half-mile contest as Great Endeavour, an 8-1 chance making his seasonal debut, hit the gate running. He also hit the last fence, but by then he was clear, and Timmy Murphy sat tight. The blip barely checked the grey seven-year-old's stride and he powered up this testing climb to the finish seven lengths clear of the 20-1 shots Quantitativeeasing and Divers.
Great Endeavour, who gave his owner David Johnson his sixth success and Murphy his third, took over at the front from trailblazing 7-2 favourite Wishfull Thinking three fences from home. "The yard know how to get one ready first time," said Murphy, "so there were no worries on that score. He jumped well from fence one and travelled beautifully. He never felt like falling at the last and he'd done plenty enough by then."
Murphy is enjoying a productive autumn, having also won last month's Charlie Hall Chase on Weird Al. "He gave our horse a peach of a ride," added Pipe. "It was Timmy at his best. Confidence is what it's all about; whether you're riding or training, you're only as good as your horses.
"Dad's was a golden era for the yard, and this is a different one. We don't have as many horses as we used to, but we've got some lovely ones and we'll do the best with what we've got."
Great Endeavour's next test may come 13 days hence at Newbury in the Hennessy Gold Cup, for which he is now favourite.
The ante-post plunge on the Paul Nicholls contender Mon Parrain came unstuck when the 9-2 second favourite could finish only seventh. "He lacked the tactical early pace," said rider Ruby Walsh. "The difference was that I was flat to the boards while Timmy was doing a half-pace."
But if one thing is a certainty in this game, it is that Nicholls will not give up his champion trainer's crown lightly. And if there are many more at home like Hinterland, then the future at Manor Farm is in safe hoofs. The French-bred three-year-old treated his rivals with disdain in the Triumph Hurdle Trial and is now as short at 5-1 for the real thing back here in March.
As far as his trainer is concerned, hopes for the gelding's career lie way beyond his juvenile hurdling season. "He's as good a one of his age as we've had at this stage of the season," he said, "but we bought him very much with fences in mind."
That tantalising prospect will be next season. For this, there is his stablemate Join Together, who put his name in the Festival novice frame by taking yesterday's finale, and possibly Al Ferof, who aims to follow suit in today's opener – The Independent Newspapers Chase – at the track.
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