Sunday, 11 March 2018

WORRYING TIMES FOR PIPE


The Professor Caroline Tisdall colours, Tom Scudamore with his coloured gumshield, plus a perceived feeling of hopefulness without any real expectation, are thoughts that come to the fore when the name Pipe is mentioned.

It all seems a long way away from all those machines, many of them front runners who galloped on with seemingly limitless reserves, and who progressed upwards at a rate of knots through the ranks until reaching their ceiling.

From a region whose flag bearers were David Barons,  John Jenkins and even Milton Bradley, and one that was the weakest area of all and put in the shade by Lambourn, the North, Ireland and even the Midlands, Baron Blakeney's 1981 Triumph Hurdle victory kicked off a trend that would by the end of the eighties make the true West Country the most powerful UK arm of national hunt racing.

Overall though, the quality of animal that came into the yard was no better than the rival trainers and the costly Irish stores would mostly evade him, with most of the patrons not prepared to spend fortunes and a long time waiting.

The most impressive aspect of the regime had been the ability to recondition - if that's the correct word - intakes from other yards that had hit a dead end in their careers then revitalise them, often having an attractive handicap mark to play with. Beau Ranger being a fine example of this.

But sometimes there were horses taken in from proven trainers in reasonably fair shape that suddenly jumped to a higher level, such as Bonanza Boy from Philip Hobbs and the mighty Carvill's Hill from Jim Dreaper.

Everyone can come up with numerous examples from either of the above scenarios, there were just so many.

While nothing lasts some things last longer than others and in a sport like horse racing it can never be an individual. It is always a combination of factors, sometimes a couple, often several.

So when the time arrived a couple of decades later for Martin Pipe to hand over to son David, the dominance of Pond House had been whittled away, and in his last two seasons with a licence, Pipe Snr was beaten to the championship by nearby rival Paul Nicholls.

We were told that other trainers began to ape the Pipe method of training which leads to the conclusion that there was a hell of a lot of pretty dumb handlers with a licence in the first place.

There had also existed the exploitation of the French marketplace and building up a contact network to ensure a continuous intake of promising young recruits before the crowd followed and pushed the demand and cost up.

It cannot be denied that the alarm bells are now ringing at Pond House. Look at it this way, ten consecutive years that saw the million marker in prize money surpassed on eight occasions, and close to being reached on the other two, and topped by a Grand National success with Comply Or Die (pictured).

Then came last season.A fall to the three-quarters of a million mark and a comparatively meagre number of winners, fifty-nine in all. If ever a good bounce back season was needed then this was it.

Even allowing for the fact that the yard had has had its share of misfortune, with Starchitect being the notable example, the season has been catastrophic, with a dearth of winners that those connected to the famous set up are not used to experiencing.

Twenty-six winners, striking at under 10% and £359,000 in prize money, meaning a grandstand Spring performance is desperately needed, albeit from where it will come is not apparent.

With David Johnson gone many of the quality horses in the yard carry the Professor Tisdall colours, some owned outright or some in partnership.

Vieux Lion Rouge has been a flag bearer for the yard but is most likely not going to win an Aintree Grand National now, which he had promised to do. It must be said that the decision to run him in the Charlie Hall before the Bechers was a strange one for an animal whose preference for a good break between appearances is well documented.

The talented Un Temps Pour Tout is long term sidelined while Dell Arca is one you feel they have never truly got to grips with, and may have benefited from a switch elsewhere two seasons back, not something you would once have recommended for a Pond House inmate.

And the tale of woe continues with Champers On Ice not developing into the animal he promised to be,Celestial Path who looked an exciting recruit from Sir Mark Prescott's yard but has been dire from the outset,while Moon Racer who was destined to put the yard back on the map has suffered from an interrupted career though may still be worth a second look in the County Hurdle this week.

Being realistic, the big hope for the near future comes in the shape of the Angrove family owned Know The Score. He lines up in the Bumper this week and as with many of those likeable Flemensfirths, he will need conditions reasonably testing to have any chance.

Most owners go with who's in vogue. The most extreme example when Howard Johnson revealed that he was approached by several different parties previously unknown to him but all wanted a horse with him in light of the publicity generated from the money invested in new inmates for the yard by Graham Wylie.

Another example and a bizarre one at that would be Richard Phillips being selected to take over at Jackdaws Castle from David Nicholson, on the basis of him having nous for the modern day world or some similar nonsense. This was in the face of Nicholson recommending Alan King who appeared the logical choice to all onlookers.

With the vogue theme in mind, there is nothing like a festival winner to put your name in the reckoning, particularly from a race designed to throw up horses that go on to better things.

Cue Card's Champion Bumper victory did wonders for Colin Tizzard and took him to a new level. With David Pipe, it is a case of returning him to a level of success he was accustomed to, and an unlikely success for Know The Score could kick-start the comeback that to be truthful is looking in some doubt.

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