Cheltenham Festival News

2023 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle: Statistics and trends

Sun 1 Jan 2023

All you need to know about the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday 17 March.

When and where can I watch it? 5.30pm on Friday 17 March, live on Racing TV.

What Grade? Class Two. What course? New Course What distance? 2m 4 1/2f (10 hurdles).

Prize-money: £75,000. Ages: 4yo+. Weights and Allowances: 0-145 Handicap. Minimum weight 10st. Penalties: 5lb for a winner of a hurdle after February 27, 2023. However, no penalty will increase a horse's weight above 11st 10lb.


Weight matters:

All winners have carried more than 11st to victory. Four of the past five winner carried at least 11st 9lb and horses carrying 11st or less at 0-95.


Although this contest only has a 14-year history, the winners so far have all shared largely similar profiles – not least that all have been aged either five or six, apart from two seven-year-olds: Blow By Blow (2018) and Indefatigable (2020).

Horses aged eight or older are 0-59!


It has not proved easy to find the winner, with 9-2 chance Sir Des Champs (2011) the only winning favourite so far. Killultagh Vic (2015) at 7-1, the well-backed Early Doors (2019) at 5-1 and Galopin Des Champs at 8-1 (2021) are the only other winners not sent off at double-figure odds.


Big-name trainers have dominated the race to this point - nine of the past 12 winners were trained by either Willie Mullins (four) or Paul Nicholls (two), Joseph O'Brien (two) and Gordon Elliott (two). Despite the contest being named after his father, David Pipe has a poor record so far (0 from 22).

Seven of the past nine winners were Irish trained, too.

Did you know?:

The first and second in 2011, Sir Des Champs and Son Of Flicka, both returned to The Festival in 2012, with Sir Des Champs winning the Turners Novices’ Chase and Son Of Flicka capturing the Coral Cup.

Don Poli (2014) landed the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase the following year, while 2021 winner Galopin Des Champs was set to win the Turners Novices' Chase before falling at the final fence last year.

Race history:

 Pipe, centre, with the 2019 victors - Jonjo O'Neill Jr and Sr (Focusonracing)
Pipe, centre, with the 2019 victors - Jonjo O'Neill Jr and Sr (Focusonracing)

Staged for the first time in 2009, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle is named after one the greatest trainers of modern times who retired at the end of the 2005/06 season and handed over the licence to his son, David.

In a career spanning 32 years, Martin Pipe was champion Jumps trainer on no fewer than 15 occasions and broke many records. His 4,182 winners included 34 at the Cheltenham Festival.

One of the most competitive events in the National Hunt calendar, this contest has frequently proved a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey's Handicap hurdle is now the final race on day four of the Cheltenham Festival after the BHA announced various changes for safety reasons.

Recent renewals of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle:

2022 - Banbridge

Banbridge completed a clean sweep of seven wins for Ireland on the last day when winning a dramatic race for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old, trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by Mark McDonagh, outpointed Cobblers Dream on the run to the line after the first two jumped the last together. Banbridge (12-1) stuck his head down and got the verdict by a length and a half. Hollow Games was third and Freedom To Dream fourth.

There was early drama when the favourite Langar Dan came down at the second flight along with Grand Jury, then at the fourth Decimation fell, bringing down Lucky Max.

O’Brien said: “Mark gave him a great ride. Obviously there was plenty of carnage in behind us through the race and we managed to avoid some of the loose horses down the hill.

“He’s very tough and I’m delighted for Ronnie (Bartlett, owner). He has supported me very well. It’s fantastic to get a winner here. It’s been a long week.”

2021 - Gallopin Des Champs

Gallopin Des Champs (8/1) ran out a memorable winner in the Cheltenham Festival finale with a rout in the Martin Pipe for trainer Willie Mullins under jockey Sean O'Keeffe.

The Irish challener floated into the straight and was hard on the bridle approaching the final flight, holding off Langer Dan (13/2) by over two lengths at the line with Floueur (33/1) nine lengths further back in third. Whatsupwithyou (33/1) was fourth.

This victpory secured the top trainer crown for Willie Mullins for the eighth time and he said: "Sean just bided his time and gave him a very good ride."

2020 - Indefatigable

The mare snatched victory in a thrilling finale to the meeting and in the most unlikely of circumstances to hand maiden Cheltenham Festival victories to trainer Paul Webber and jockey Rex Dingle.

Anchored at the back of the field for most of the race, Dingle began to make his challenge and picked off rivals before the descent down the hill but Indefatigable had to contend with traffic problems and her run was interrupted turning into the straight.

Column Of Fire looked the likeliest winner but came down at the last as Indefatigable stayed on all the time up the rail and flashed home to somehow collar Pileon (9-1) by a short head with Great White Shark three lengths adrift in third. Happygolucky (25-1) was fourth.

I can't believe it to be honest," said Dingle. "This is massive, surreal. I will look back in years to come and probably say I didn't appreciate it enough, so I'm trying to appreciate it now and as much as I can. It won't sink in for a few hours. I'm blurry-visioned now."

Webber added: "What a great thrill. Everything went wrong for her and she still managed to battle up the hill. This horse has as big a heart as anything we've trained.

"Time For Rupert nearly got us here in the Stayers' Hurdle, we've had two bumper horses finish second and we've been second in the County Hurdle. I don't mind waiting until the last opportunity (of the week)."

2019 – Early Doors

A second winner of the week for Joseph O’Brien, Early Doors’ victory also highlighted the emerging talent that is Jonjo O’Neill Jr. A first victory for the rider at the Cheltenham Festival, he produced the son of Soldier Of Fortune to perfection.

Having followed the strong travelling and well-backed favourite Dallas Des Pictons into the home straight, Early Doors, running in the JP McManus green and gold silks, displayed a tremendous attitude to master his long-time rival on the run for home, eventually scoring by a length and a quarter.

Both O’Brien and O’Neill Jr have gone on to advertise their mastery in the training and riding spheres and both will be hoping for further glory at The Festival for many years to come.

2018 - Blow By Blow:

Gordon Elliott edged into the lead in the battle for top trainer at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival after Donagh Meyler guided his seven-year-old to a five-length victory.

The former Grade One winner was Elliott's eighth winner of the week which saw him pip Willie Mullins for the top trainer title. Blow By Blow's victory did come as a slight surprise to Elliott, though. He said:

“He got a soft lead and fair play to the horse, he was a Grade One winner. He looked well-handicapped, but I thought the ground was too soft for him.

2017 – Champagne Classic:

Gigginstown have won this race with horses who have gone on to prove themselves high-class chasers (Sir Des Champs and Don Poli) and Champagne Classic could yet turn out to be another one of them, despite owner Michael O'Leary contrarily claiming he is "without doubt" the worst horse he owns.

A smart bumper performer who had been progressive over hurdles that season, he was a strong traveller who stayed further, which was a potent cocktail in a strongly-run handicap like this. Making his handicap debut, he could have been called the winner from some way out and was clearly a step or two ahead of the assessor. He rammed that point home on his next start, comfortably beating the 153-rated Penhill off level weights in a Grade One novice event at Punchestown the following month.

2016 – Ibis Du Rheu:

Ibis Du Rheu had won only one of seven starts over hurdles since coming over from France but it was also his first run on good ground and the half-brother to talented Saphir Du Rheu relished this different type of test.

Having travelled well, he showed a terrific attitude to see off the bang in-form Imperial Cup winner Flying Angel, but he has since been a horse with a very up-and-down profile.

2015 – Killultagh Vic:

Killultagh Vic provided Willie Mullins with a record eighth winner of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival when Luke Dempsey managed to get the six-year-old back to the front to gamely see off Noble Endeavor in a thrilling finish to this hotly-contested handicap.

The victory was enough to push Mullins past the previous record of seven winners, set by Nicky Henderson only three years earlier, and Mullins was understandably delighted.

“It's been fantastic," he said.

"It's so hard and competitive, but we've had such a fantastic spring. We've had no sickness with any of the horses and we've had a great preparation,”

He also praised the winning rider: “I thought Luke gave him a great ride, he was beaten and then he pulled it out of the fire. It's his first ride for me, as far as I can remember. He was available last week so I booked him.”

2014 – Don Poli:

Don Poli had been a hugely progressive novice hurdler but had never encountered ground quicker than soft in his four previous runs, so the highly-regarded Gigginstown Stud-owned five-year-old had a question to answer tackling a sound surface for the first time.

However, any fears that he might lack the speed to win such a competitive hurdles race under those conditions were quickly dispelled as he forged clear from the last to win the race by a commanding four and a half lengths.

Don Poli, who went on to win two Grade One chases the following season, was always considered a chaser in the making, as Willie Mullins confirmed after his Martin Pipe victory. “He looks like he wants fences already. He's got chaser written all over him,” said the trainer.

2013 – Salubrious:

The 2013 Cheltenham Festival had proved one to forget for Paul Nicholls but he finally got on the board for the meeting when Salubrious bolted up under his nephew Harry Derham.

He was a horse firmly on the upgrade, defying an 8lb rise for his dominant Musselburgh success the previous month, and it was a mighty relief for the trainer, who spoke candidly about what had been an emotional week for the team.

He said: “It's been a blooming nightmare this week but I'd like to dedicate that one to Dominic Baker (son of Nicholls' head lad Clifford Baker, who died in a car accident soon before the Festival).

"It's been an incredibly tough week, but to win for Dominic is brilliant. For Harry to ride it is brilliant. He gave it a peach, I told him to go as wide as he could but not to get there too soon but he was probably there 10 minutes too soon!”

Nicholls went on to complete a quickfire double in the final race of the meeting.

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