The generation game is one that is played naturally in racing, a sport where pedigrees count. The appointment of Tom Scudamore last year as stable jockey to David Pipe took one old firm on to the future, for the fathers of both – Peter and Martin respectively – had the same relationship. And in the Queen Mother Champion Chase today at Cheltenham another set of family values will be cherished.
The two-mile chasing crown is one of the few prestige prizes missing from the Pipe mantleshelf. Nineteen years ago Beau Ranger, owned by the late Arthur White, made a decent fist of trying to secure it when he finished third. Today's contender from the Somerset yard, Tamarinbleu, carries the same silks, for White's children John, Ann and Sarah. "You couldn't write the script, could you?" said Tom Scudamore.
Like Beau Ranger – who also finished third in a Gold Cup – Tamarinbleu is versatile about distance, having won over fences between two and three miles. "If a horse is very good," said Scudamore, "then the trip he runs over is not such an issue. It seems always to have been like that in jump racing, when you think of Arkle, Flyingbolt and Crisp, and more recently Desert Orchid and now Kauto Star."
Tamarinbleu has blossomed this year, first as a high-class handicapper – he won a valuable contest at Cheltenham in December – and then among the elite. In January at Ascot, over two miles, he made every yard to defeat Twist Magic, the horse perceived at that stage as two-mile champion-elect.
"I've watched the replays," said Scudamore, "and sure, Twist Magic was travelling very easily behind us as far as Swinley Bottom, and yes, on the day we outstayed him on that stiff track. But some other real good two-milers couldn't lay up with us."
Tamarinbleu, apparently, felt as impressive as he looked. The white-faced bay is straightforward, but deceptive, to ride and his 25-year-old jockey is still young enough to feel the buzz. "He is just a pleasure to be on, no quirks or hang-ups," he said. "But the way he jumps, you don't realise the astonishing ability he has at the time. It's only when you look at it afterwards you realise how far he's landing over the fence, the ground he makes in the air. It's just such a great thrill to ride him."
The making of the eight-year-old has been the application of blinkers, which help him concentrate on the job in hand. "We've always known he was very good," added Scudamore, "but after he disappointed us at Aintree last spring we decided to try blinkers, and he improved enough in a run over hurdles to know that was the right route. His performance at Cheltenham was something else. It takes a very good horse to win like he did off a mark of 150.
"And one of the most pleasing things about the job is when a plan comes together. It doesn't have to be a big race, it can be a seller if that's all the horse can do. But it's getting it right that gives satisfaction."
No prisoners will be taken in a field containing two other trailblazers, Fair Along and Lennon and an end-to-end gallop may put pressure on Twist Magic's stamina and the jumping of his young stablemate Master Minded, and though it will help Voy Por Ustedes, last year's winner has since been beaten too many times. Battle-hardened, progressive Tamarinbleu (3.15) can get it right.
Whoever takes the Royal & SunAlliance Chase will have some mighty shoes to fill, given that Denman was last year's victor. So no winner would be more appropriate than the Gold Cup second favourite's young brother Silverburn (2.35). The seven-year-old's record is not as flawless as that of his sibling at the same stage – Denman was then, and still is, unbeaten over fences – but his profile is progressive, he is a good jumper, and he benefited from Sam Thomas's positive handling last time out. Expect the same grinding tactics today.
The danger is one of those legendary beasts, the Irish mare. Pomme Tiepy is four from four over fences since joining Willie Mullins and has the assistance of Ruby Walsh. The two jockeys and trainers may find their positions reversed in the opener, when Fiveforthree (2.00) – not an English cricket score, but a golfing term – is preferred to Breedsbreeze and Forpadydeplasterer.
3.15 Cheltenham; C4
QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE (GRADE 1) (1) £310,000 2m Penalty Value £176,762
1. 15/2P0 AZULEJO (44) (J E Wilson & T J Wilson) M Scudamore 10 11 10, J Mogford
French import with five NH wins to his name on home soil. Unable to land a blow in two hurdle starts for new yard and really hard to fancy today
2. 0450-0 CONTRABAND (1) (CD) (F Wilson) Paul Murphy 10 11 10, T J Dreaper
Enjoyed his finest moment when landing the 2005 Arkle Trophy, but he is not the force of old and was well beaten in the Champion Hurdle here yesterday
3. 202-34 FAIR ALONG (25) (CD) (A Peterson) P Hobbs 6 11 10, R Johnson
A prolific scorer in all spheres but his jumping has let him down at the highest level over fences and he may have to settle for a place today
4. 41-362 LENNON (39) (D) (Andrea & Graham Wylie) J Howard Johnson 8 11 10, Denis O'Regan
Looked a promising sort last term but he found life tough at the highest level. Running well in handicap company of late but much more to do now
5. 11-213 MANSONY (53) (D) (M Mulholland) A L Moore (Irl) 9 11 10, D N Russell
Irish raider transferred good hurdling form to fences in his novice season. Won a Grade 1 on punultimate start but behind two of these last time
6. 0-2U11 MASTER MINDED (32) (D) (C Smith) P Nicholls 5 11 10, R Walsh
Made a favourable impression when making use of a handy weight receipt to beat Voy Por Ustedes in taking style last time. Major claims again
7. 5-6P3B NEWMILL (38) (CD) (BF) (Mrs M Hayes) J J Murphy (Irl) 10 11 10, R M Power
The 2006 hero of this race but has failed to find that level of form since and it is hard to see him fairing better than last year's fourth place
8. 5-534U SCHINDLERS HUNT (17) (D BF) (Slaneyville Synd.) D Hughes (Irl) 8 11 10, P Carberry V
Dual Grade 1 novice chase winner in his native Ireland last term but has stacks to find on his two most recent efforts and is passed over
9. 6-3111 TAMARINBLEU (53) (C) (D) (Arthur White Partnership) D Pipe 8 11 10, T Scudamore B
Much improved performer produced a personal best when trouncing Twist Magic at Ascot last time and should take some catching once again
10. F1-112 TWIST MAGIC (53) (D) (BF) (Fulton/Hayward/Lynch) P Nicholls 6 11 10, S Thomas
Blotted his copybook when beaten last time but his previous Tingle Creek romp was hugely impressive and he is expected prove a big player
11. 1-2212 VOY POR USTEDES (32) (CD) (BF) (Sir Robert Ogden) A King 7 11 10, R Thornton
Last year's winner comes into his own at this fixture and despite losingout to two of his main rivals already this term, he is sure to go close
- 11 declared -
BETTING: 5-2 Master Minded, 3-1 Twist Magic, Voy Por Ustedes, 9-2 Tamarinbleu, 8-1 Fair Along, 25-1 Mansony, Newmill, 33-1 Lennon, 50-1 Schindlers Hunt, 500-1 others.
2007: Voy Por Ustedes 6 11 10 R Thornton 5-1 (A King), 10 ran.
This hell-for-leather chase puts jumping at a premium, which questions Master Minded's chance of completing. He has won his last two starts in style on galloping tracks and has fallen twice and unseated his rider once in five previous races. He may not confirm placings of his last race with Voy Pour Ustedes, who won this last year. Newmill took this two years ago but none of the Irish contingent are in form. Fair Along was second in the Arkle last year but has something to find on this season's form. Twist Magic fell in the Arkle last year but won his next three starts. He trailed in a long way behind TAMARINBLEU in the Grade 1 Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot, with Mansony and Schindlers Hunt miles back. David Pipe's eight-year-old had jumping problems last year but reverting to front-running tactics has paid dividends.
Three To Follow At The Festival Today
Enter the dragons. Cardiff City and the Welsh rugby team are through the door and perhaps today Keith Goldsworthy can follow. One of the finds of the season, Goldsworthy, based at Grumbly Bush Farm, Yerbeston, Pembrokeshire, has his first Festival runner when he sends Hold Em to the Ballymore Hurdle. Later in the week his stablemate Hills Of Aran will become the second. The pair represent a quarter of their trainer's string, currently operating at a 25 per cent strike- rate. It was the sale of 45-year-old Goldsworthy's waste-management company that allowed him to kick-start his training career five years ago. He and wife Linda are the only full-time members of staff.
Though the Queen Mother's colours were a regular fixture at the Festival, those of her daughter will be carried there for the first time today in the bumper. Gold Award, a half-brother to high-class Flat performer Phantom Gold and once in training with Sir Michael Stoute, was bred more with Royal Ascot in mind. But sent to Nicky Henderson, he has found an alternative role and comes to jump racing's equivalent shrine unbeaten. The Queen is too busy today to see him make history. "Her Majesty has too much else to do," said her jump racing manager Sir Michael Oswald.
Gambles in racing are not confined to the track. Omagh-based Mervyn Torrens, one of the smallest operators in Ulster, has already put his mouth where other peoples' money is by refusing supposedly unrefusable offers for his Bumper contender Quartetto. A rare four-year-old taking on his elders in today's finale, the German-bred caught more than a few shrewd eyes – Willie Mullins at the front of the queue – when he followed a third at Leopardstown with an easy win at Down Royal. A first jumps runner in Britain for Torrens, he will be ridden by Slippers Madden, seeking his first Festival winner.
Nap: Take Your Mark
(Cheltenham 2.00)Reuse content