Imperial Cup preview: Friday Night Light out to enhance Pipe family record

Fri 9 Mar 2018

The Pipe family have a fantastic record in the Matchbook Imperial Cup and appear to have another serious contender for this year's renewal in Friday Night Light.

It is almost 30 years since Martin Pipe claimed the first of his six victories in the prestigious handicap with Travel Mystery (1989) and son David has since registered three wins of his own.

Of the nine winners, three have gone on to score at the Cheltenham Festival the following week, with Martin Pipe's Olympian landing the Imperial Cup and Coral Cup in 1993, Blowing Wind winning the Sandown feature and the County Hurdle in 1998 and David's Gaspara doing the Imperial Cup-Fred Winter double in 2007.

The race sponsors are this year offering a £100,000 bonus for any horse who can win on Saturday and follow up in any race in the Cotswolds, but Friday Night Light - who chased home fellow Imperial Cup contender Le Patriote in a similar race at Ascot three weeks ago - is unlikely to make the cut for the Festival.

Pipe said: "Friday Night Light is in good order and hopefully he's got a good each-way chance.

"He's progressed all the way through the season and he shouldn't be inconvenienced by the track, trip or ground.

"We're putting a visor on him for the first time just to see if we can eke out a bit more improvement.

"Even if we were lucky enough to win the Imperial Cup and get the 5lb penalty, I don't think he'd get in at Cheltenham.

"It's all about Saturday for him."

Le Patriote bids to provide his trainer Dr Richard Newland with his second Imperial Cup success following the triumph of Ebony Express three years ago.

"I'm delighted to be running him. It was a great thrill to win at Ascot and he's 8lb higher now, so it doesn't get any easier," said Newland.

"It looks like the ground should be testing, which will suit him, and I don't think coming back to two miles on a stiff track like Sandown should be too much of a problem."

Nicky Henderson has won the race just once before, with Dave's Dream striking gold in 2009.

This year the Seven Barrows handler fires a twin assault, with top-weight Call Me Lord joined by hat-trick seeking stable companion Whatswrongwithyou, who heads the market.

Call Me Lord is a dual course-and-distance winner, but must concede upwards of 12lb to each of his 16 rivals after finishing third in last month's Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: "He likes the track and if he is lucky and qualifies for the bonus, the County Hurdle would be the option for him."

Octagon has won his last three races for Harry Whittington, albeit two of those victories came in selling company.

Whittington, who rides Octagon every day, said: "He takes a bit of knowing and can be quite keen. He won two sellers and was dropped 5lb and then bolted up in a 0-120 at Sedgefield.

"We've given him a nice break since his Boxing Day win and I think he's primed for a good run in the Imperial Cup as he feels a lot stronger and is a different horse to the one he was in the autumn."

The Evan Williams-trained Silver Streak bids to get his season back on track after only making it as far as the second flight before unseating his rider in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

"He seems in good form and I'm very happy with him, but you need a lot of luck in this job," said the Llancarfan-based trainer.

"It's a very good race for a very good prize and we'll give it our best shot.

"Cheltenham was never on our agenda with this horse. I don't think he wants to be going anywhere near the place, personally, so I didn't even enter him.

"Newbury was our main target, but that didn't work out and we're lucky to have this race to fall back on."

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