All you need to know about the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle ahead of the Cheltenham Festival 2019.
When and where can I watch the Martin Pipe? 5.30pm Cheltenham, March 15. Live on Racing TV.
Which Grade? Class Two.
Which Course? New Course
What Distance? 2m 4 1/2f (10 hurdles)
How much is the prize-money? £70,000
What Age? 4yo+
Weights & Allowances? 0-145 Handicap. Minimum weight 10st 0lb. Penalties: After February 25th, 2018, a winner of a hurdle 5lb.
Key Statistics and Trends:
Although this is a contest with only a ten-year history, the winners so far have all shared largely similar profiles – not least that all have been aged either five or six years old apart from last year's winner, Blow By Blow, who was aged seven.
However, it has not proved easy to find the winners so far with only one sent off favourite (Sir Des Champs in 2011) and all bar two of the ten being sent off at double-figure odds.
Big-name trainers have dominated the race to this point - five of the last eight winners were trained by either Willie Mullins (three) or Paul Nicholls (two). Despite the contest being named after his father, David Pipe has a poor record so far (0 from 19).
All ten winners have carried more than 11st to victory, with Pause And Clause (2010) and Blow By Blow (2018) scoring with 11st 10lb.
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 JLT Novices’ Chase and Son Of Flicka capturing the Coral Cup.
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 Festival.
The first and second home in this race in 2011, Sir Des Champs and Son Of Flicka, both returned successfully to The Festival in 2012 with Sir Des Champs winning the JLT Novices’ Chase and Son Of Flicka capturing the Coral Cup.
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 Festival after the BHA announced various changes for safety reasons.
Last six winners and closing stages:
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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