Like Father, like son for Pipe's Festival plots

 

Pond House, Nicholashayne

Knowing the way they have always done things round here, it is safe to assume that yesterday's date has long been circled in red on the office calendar – and that any such prompt had precious little to do with an invasion of film crews and reporters. For by the time David Pipe hosted his pre-Festival open morning, he had already completed the most significant clerical chore of the entire year. Entries for the Cheltenham handicaps closed at noon, and the dozens submitted from Pond House surely included at least one that will get the job done next month.

Of the seven Festival winners saddled by Pipe since taking over the yard from his record-breaking father, Martin, six have been in handicaps. He reckons things are rather harder, nowadays, as horses require a relatively high rating simply to make the cut. What will never change, however, is the focus and discretion vested in each horse – whether miles ahead of the handicapper, as when Junior won by 24 lengths last year; or simply primed to run for his life, as when old Buena Vista won his second Pertemps Final that same afternoon.

There was never any danger yesterday of Pipe making a premature commitment on a Festival target for his stable star, Grands Crus. A more practical priority, then, was to record any handicap clues on offer – each, needless to say, cheerfully deplored by Pipe Snr.

Perhaps the most positive view was formed of Our Father, impressive at Ascot in December, albeit Pipe scrupulously avoided specifying his preferred option. Indeed, he has even been dignified with an entry for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. Assuming, however, that all remains well with Big Buck's – whose trainer, Paul Nicholls, has cancelled an equivalent event today on account of coughing in his yard – Our Father will contest either the Coral Cup or the Pertemps. Though "he took a while to get over Ascot", the fact that he will go to the Festival with just four races under his belt suggests his trainer has waited to see the whites of the handicapper's eyes before plunging the bayonet. "The form has been franked," Pipe allowed, before the customary caveats. "But he's been raised from 129 to 148, and he's a big, old-fashioned steeplechaser in the making."

Another intriguing prospect is Salut Flo, though his options diversify over both hurdles and fences. Making only his third start for the yard, he was cruising when all but falling three out at Cheltenham in December. Again, Pipe promptly put him away for the Festival, and his only caveat is that the import remains a little too "French" – that is, almost perilously economical – in his jumping.

Great Endeavour, a previous Festival winner, is another to have been freshened up since Christmas. His merit is well established, and Pipe fears he may fall between two stools, namely the Ryanair Chase or top weight in a handicap.

Buena Vista, heading for his eighth consecutive Festival at the age of 11, will be suited by drying ground. "He's been amazing," Pipe said. "And though he's been out of sorts this season, he ran a better race at Newbury last week and we know he rises to the occasion."

As favourite for the John Smith's Grand National, Junior has still bigger fish to fry. Pipe was pleased with his comeback spin at Newbury and could give him his Aintree prep in the Gold Cup, though cannot yet say whether Grands Crus would join him. The alternative is to keep Grands Crus among novices, in the RSA Chase, and Pipe may find himself with a casting vote between the joint-owners. Asked who might have the final say, he declared: "My mum!"

He has horrible memories of the loss, in the 2000 Gold Cup, of another precocious novice, Gloria Victis. "I was there and it was a very sad day," he said. "But you take every horse as an individual. Can Grands Crus travel at the pace of a Gold Cup? I'd say yes. Can he jump at the pace of a Gold Cup? That's the only issue. But his jumping has been very good so far. We're still open-minded, and we'll sit down and have a chat a week or so before Cheltenham."

He does seem genuinely uncertain. But one or two other Festival projects, you fancy, have been determined months ago.

BHA takes sting out of whip rule

Sweeping changes to the controversial whip rules were agreed by the British Horseracing Authority board yesterday. From early next month, rather than it being an automatic breach when a rider uses the whip eight times on the Flat and nine times over jumps, the figures will become the trigger point for the stewards to review the ride in question. Under a revised penalty structure, which will take effect tomorrow and be retrospectively applied to bans still to be served, one strike too many will still warrant a two-day ban, but two more will now incur a four-day suspension, rather than five days as at present.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Malin Head (4.15 Ludlow) Former point-to-pointer proved a different horse switched to fences for his first handicap.

Next best

Distime (4.05 Doncaster) Lightly raced and, though unable to exploit good mark in first handicap, can do so now he steps up in trip.

One to watch

The Jigsaw Man (Rebecca Curtis) will soon exploit a diminishing mark judged on Newbury last Friday.

Where the money's going

Medermit is 7-1 from 10-1 with Stan James for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam