Fans of National Hunt racing will be well aware that the Cheltenham Festival dominates this week. Local trainer David Pipe is well-placed for success in several of the 27 races over 4 days with 103 winners this season so far, placing him at the top of the trainers’ list with Nicky Henderson lying second on 97 winners. Pipe’s Pond House team saddled 3 winners at Cheltenham last year.
Pipe put the importance of Cheltenham into the perspective of the season as a whole when he said, “At the start of each campaign I always set myself a clear and challenging goal – 100 winners, £1 million in prize money and a Cheltenham Festival winner. If I satisfy all of those objectives I consider it to be a very successful season. To some a Cheltenham winner is not the be-all and end-all, although it is the very pinnacle of our sport – the Olympics of racing if you like, and so I would be surprised if any of my counterparts did not aspire to winning at the Festival.”
“Of course, Cheltenham is the ultimate test of a trainers’ skill – it is the toughest four days of jump racing in the world with the very best equine stars taking each other on at the finest natural amphitheatre. Once again, I would be more than happy with a solitary winner – a comment that would apply I suspect, to every trainer bar a certain W Mullins! We will be sending a select squad of horses to try to replicate last season’s incredibly haul of three winners.”
David Pipe has 18 horses featuring this year and his main Festival hope looks to be Kings Palace in the RSA Chase on Wednesday for which he is currently the 7-2 favourite.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins is odd on to be the Festival’s leading trainer, saddling at least 9 favourites from an entry of over 60 horses from his stables.