David Pipe hopes to get Adagio fit and firing in time for the Champion Hurdle after revealing the just-turned five-year-old has resumed training following a setback.
Winner of the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow last season, Pipe’s charge went on to fill the runner-up position in the Triumph Hurdle and the 4-Y-O Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in the spring.
Having made a promising seasonal return when beaten three-quarters of a length by West Cork in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, he missed an engagement in the International Hurdle after suffering a minor setback.
Adagio, as short as 16-1 with Bet365 and as big as 33-1 with BetVictor and Paddy Power for the Champion Hurdle, is on the way back, however.
Pipe said: “He has only just started cantering so plans are on hold at the present moment. He just pulled a muscle.
“We are still aiming for the Champion Hurdle, but we would like to get a run in beforehand.
“It isn’t easy trying to find a race for him, as he is only eligible for the Kingwell Hurdle (at Wincanton on February 19) or the Betfair Hurdle (at Newbury on February 7) or races like that, so he has not got too many options.”
Pipe is also mulling over where to go with Sidi Ismael, who extended his unbeaten run over fences in the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen over the Christmas period.
The eight-year-old won on his stable debut over hurdles in November for owners, The Show Is Over Syndicate.
Sidi Ismael followed up at Wetherby before outstaying nine rivals over an extended three miles and three furlongs at Market Rasen in stamina-sapping ground.
Pipe said: “We will possibly look at the Midlands National, or go to Catterick for a three-mile-six-furlong handicap chase. He is still a novice as well.
“He is certainly going the right way and is owned by an enthusiastic bunch of guys who are based in Ireland, Liverpool and all over the place. He is progressing and seems to stay very well.”
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Tom Scudamore paid handsome tribute to popular staying chaser Vieux Lion Rouge, who has been retired after a successful career spanning 10 years.
Trainer David Pipe has called time on the 13-year-old’s racing days after he was pulled up in the Last Fling Handicap Chase at Haydock last week.
Vieux Lion Rouge was a standing dish at Aintree where he won the Becher Chase twice in six attempts and made five appearances in the Grand National with a best-placed sixth in 2017.
“He’s been a fantastic servant to the yard, to Caroline (Tisdall), to John (Gent, owners) and David (Pipe) and myself,” Scudamore told Sky Sports Racing.
“He gave us so many happy days and it was extraordinary to think that the big gangly three-year-old I won a bumper on over a mile and a half at Newbury went on to achieve what he did.
“The funny thing with him was that he wasn’t a natural jumper. Over hurdles he was a bit awkward and over fences to begin with you wouldn’t have put him down as a National horse.
“He actually ran in the National as a novice the first time. I remember schooling him over the National fences and he was just awesome – but I was dreading it a little bit if I’m honest as he wasn’t a natural but they made a man of him and he never looked back – he was such an intelligent horse.
“Caroline is a great supporter of National Hunt racing and the Grand National so for Vieux to come along so early was great for her and John.
“I think he holds the record for most Grand National fences jumped and I won more races (11) on him than any other horse so he holds a special place in my heart.”
Vieux Lion Rouge won 13 of his 41 starts and earned £344,777 in prize money in a career that began in December 2012.
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David Pipe will make a fresh plan for Adagio in the new year after missing Saturday’s International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Winner of the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow last season, Pipe’s charge went on to fill the runner-up spot in both the Triumph at Cheltenham and at Aintree in the spring.
He again had to make do with minor honours, but ran an excellent race in defeat, on his return to action when second to West Cork in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
Adagio was well fancied to go one better back at Prestbury Park last weekend, but missed out after suffering a minor setback.
Pipe said: “He’s progressing. I don’t know when he’ll be out next, but he’s progressing in the right direction.
“It was just a minor thing, but it unfortunately meant he had to miss that race.
“I wouldn’t have thought he’ll be ready in time for the Christmas Hurdle (at Kempton).
“We’ll get him right and see where we go. There’s not a lot of options, but that’s where we are.”
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Ante-post favourite Adagio will miss the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday after suffering a minor setback.
David Pipe’s stable star enjoyed an excellent juvenile campaign last season – winning at Cheltenham and Chepstow before filling the runner-up spot in the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival and at Aintree.
Having made a fine start to his campaign when second in last month’s Greatwood Hurdle, Adagio was the 2-1 market leader for this weekend’s Grade Two contest with the sponsors, but will not be lining up.
Pipe posted on Twitter: “Unfortunately Adagio misses the International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday due to a slight setback.”
Tom Symonds will wait until close to final declaration time before deciding whether to allow Song For Someone to bid for back-to-back victories in the race.
The six-year-old repelled the late challenge of Silver Streak by a nose 12 months ago and made a pleasing seasonal reappearance when second to Buzz in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot last month.
Symonds has been pleased with his stable star since then and has to decide whether to head back to Cheltenham or wait for the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
“He’s in good form. He came out of the Coral really well. We’re not sure if we’re going to go on Saturday, but it looks a nice type of race,” said the Ross-on-Wye handler.
“Obviously he won it last year, which was a fully subscribed edition of it.
“I don’t know what’s going to decide whether he goes or not. The ground looks good for him and everything like that.
“It’s a competitive version of the race, which it should be. We’re happy where he is. It will be either this or the Christmas Hurdle. We’ll make a decision near declaration time.
“He handles most types of ground. I do wonder if he is better on good ground with a stiff two miles, which this is.
“If we feel it’s right to run, we will have a go at winning it for a second time, which will be quite hard.”
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David Pipe’s Remastered is faring well after walking away from a heavy fall in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury on Saturday.
The eight-year-old was running a superb race having started at 11-1 under Fergus Gillard, travelling competitively towards the head of the field as the leading contenders reached the home straight.
Approaching the fourth-last fence in the slipstream of eventual winner Cloudy Glen, the chestnut then stepped at the obstacle and crashed out of the Grade Three contest when falling heavily upon landing.
Thankfully both Remastered and his unscathed jockey got to their feet following the tumble and Pipe is hopeful the gelding will be none the worse in the long run.
“He doesn’t seem too bad, he’s stiff and sore but the physios are looking at him today so hopefully there’s not too much wrong,” he said on Monday.
“He looked as if he was going to run a massive race, but thankfully the horse is OK and the jockey is OK.
“The signs are good, the physio will look at him and the vet will look at him.
“He’s been under the (solarium) lights, he’s had arnica, he’s had his stretches and he doesn’t seem too bad but I’ll let the professionals give the final verdict.”
Should all be well Remastered will return to work towards the end of the week, after which discussions will be had as to when and where he will next be seen on track.
“Hopefully we can start back at the end of this week,” said Pipe.
“Then we’ll have a chat with the owners and decide where we go next.”
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Adagio is to head for the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham on December 11 following his excellent effort there on Sunday.
David Pipe had no hesitation in naming the Grade Two contest as the four-year-old’s next race, after he finished second under top-weight in the ultra-competitive Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
“He seems to have come out of the race well. It was a great performance under top-weight,” said the Nicholashayne handler.
“He’s given weight to everything and as a four-year-old he ran a great race.
“I expect we’ll head to the International next.”
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David Pipe reports Remastered to be all set for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury later this month, as long the ground is suitable following an encouraging seasonal debut.
The Nicholashayne trainer is praying for rain ahead of the prestigious staying handicap chase on November 27 for the mud-loving eight-year-old, who is a general 12-1 chance after enjoying a spin over hurdles at Aintree on Saturday.
Last season’s Reynoldstown Chase winner made most of the running before finding no extra in the final half-furlong. He was beaten a length and a quarter in third place behind Koshari in a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Series Qualifier over an extended three miles.
It was his first run since he was fifth to Galvin in the National Hunt Challenge Cup at Cheltenham in March.
“He came out of it fine. It’s all systems go for the Ladbrokes if we get the rain,” said Pipe, who won the Ladbrokes Trophy when it was staged under its original name of the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2008.
“It was good to blew away the cobwebs and get a run into him.”
Meanwhile, Pipe confirmed Adagio was likely to make his seasonal reappearance in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday.
The four-year-old was a leading juvenile hurdler last term, winning the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow and finishing second in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Doom Bar 4-Y-O Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.
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The Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham is a potential comeback target for David Pipe’s stable star Adagio.
Winner of the Grade One Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow last Christmas, the French import went on to fill the runner-up spot in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and again at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
Pipe has revealed the four-year-old had a wind operation during the summer, but he is reported to be making good progress for a likely return next month.
Adagio could bid to provide the Pond House team with a sixth Greatwood success at Prestbury Park, although the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle a fortnight later is a possible alternative.
Pipe said: “He’ll have an entry at Cheltenham in the Greatwood. We’ll have a look at that and we’ll have a look the Fighting Fifth as well, probably.
“He’s done well over the summer. He’s had a wind operation and is in good form, but he won’t be out until mid-November onwards.
“Four-year-olds can find it tough in their second season (over hurdles), but we hope he’ll be the exception to the rule.
“He’s in good form at present, anyway.”
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Alan King is confident he has Tritonic in top form as he prepares for a “proper battle” against a clutch of fellow prospective stars in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Even before embarking on his so far unbeaten hurdles career, which includes a highly-impressive Grade Two win in Kempton’s Adonis on just his second start under three weeks ago, Tritonic took King to centre stage on the Flat as a Royal Ascot runner-up last summer.
The Barbury Castle trainer therefore has every right to consider him a leading light at the top level – but he has great respect for Friday’s opposition from either side of the Irish Sea.
Zanahiyr, like Tritonic unbeaten over jumps, has spent most of the winter as ante-post favourite.
He will represent Denise Foster, as he bids for a fourth successive victory – while his Irish compatriot Quilixios, transferred this month from Gordon Elliott to Henry de Bromhead’s stable, is already a four-time winner after his Grade One success in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.
The home contingent has a second strong contender too, in David Pipe’s Adagio – who won both the Triumph Trial over course and distance in December and the rescheduled Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow a month later.
Tritonic was yet to race over hurdles at that point, but has since surged towards the top of the market, and King is delighted with his preparation.
“He’s absolutely A1,” he said.
“I don’t think the track (at Cheltenham) will be any different to him, but the opposition is a lot stronger.
“I’ve got great respect for David Pipe’s horse and the Irish horses – so it’s going to be a proper battle.”
Tritonic’s eyecatching Flat rating of 99 is an obvious indication that he could go right to the top over jumps.
“I hope so,” added King.
“But if he can do the talking on Friday now, we’ll see what happens.”
Quilixios, who has won his races by an aggregate of more than 50 lengths, also boasts fine credentials for the Champion Hurdle-winning partnership of De Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore.
Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, echoes King’s respect for the opposition – albeit in a select field of eight.
“It looks a very good race,” he said.
“The fields might be a little bit smaller at Cheltenham this year, but all the top horses are there.”
Quilixios could yet be one of them, and Richardson added: “He’s done nothing wrong – he’s four from four.
“He was most impressive when well clear at Leopardstown last time.”
Adagio has done plenty to fuel Pipe’s dreams of victory in a race which launched his father Martin’s great training career when Baron Blakeney won it as an unconsidered 66-1 shot 40 years ago.
In his three wins from four starts over hurdles, he has proved all conditions come alike to him.
“The great thing about Adagio is that it doesn’t really matter what the ground is and he’s got Cheltenham form,” said Pipe, who reports Tom Scudamore’s mount back in rude health after being briefly laid low in mid-winter.
“He had a little colic after his last run and was a bit quiet in himself.
“(Normally) he’s a real character who loves his food and he was just off games for the week.
“He’s been in very good form since, and jumps and travels.
“It’s a red-hot Triumph Hurdle. Is he good enough? We’ll find out at Cheltenham.”
There are also two Willie Mullins’ hopefuls – Haut En Couleurs, a narrow winner on his only French start but unraced for current connections – and Tax For Max.
Completing the eight are Nigel Hawke’s Historic Heart – runner-up to Adagio in the Triumph Trial – and Sean Curran’s filly Talking About You, who is the most experienced hurdler in the field with four wins from her 10 starts.
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David Pipe is double-handed in a bid to extend his family’s excellent record in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown.
His father Martin saddled six winners of the traditional feature on the Saturday before the Cheltenham Festival, while David himself has struck gold on three occasions since.
Sponsors Paddy Power are this year offering a £50,000 bonus if the winner can follow up in any race at Cheltenham next week, a double which has been achieved on just three occasions since the incentive has been up for grabs – and all by horses trained at the Pipes’ Pond House yard.
Pipe senior saddled Olympian to win the Imperial Cup-Coral Cup double in 1993, while five years later Blowing Wind followed up success at Sandown with victory in the County Hurdle.
Gaspara landed the bonus pot for David Pipe in 2007 by winning what is now the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.
This year he fires a twin assault, with Leoncavallo of particular interest on what is his first competitive appearance since finishing sixth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October.
“Leoncavallo has done very well on the Flat for us, and has had a break since the Cesarewitch,” said Pipe.
“He’s in good form and won’t mind the (good to soft) ground. Hopefully he’s got a decent each-way chance.
“He’s got some good form in two-mile handicaps, and it looks an open contest on Saturday.
“He’ll be left in at Cheltenham, and we’ll see what happens this weekend.”
The nine-year-old is joined by stablemate Eamon An Cnoic, who won over the course and distance last month before filling the runner-up spot at Chepstow a week later.
Pipe added: “He’s 10 years old and is not getting any younger.
“He’s got decent form round Sandown. He would probably prefer softer ground, but takes his chance.”
The likely favourite for the £50,000 contest is Natural History, but trainer Gary Moore is far from confident about his chances.
The Nathaniel gelding claimed the notable scalp of Moore’s Champion Hurdle hope Goshen on the Flat in October, when trained by Andrew Balding and owned by the Queen, before changing hands for 105,000 guineas later that month.
He was beaten on his first two hurdling starts, but bolted up on his handicap debut at Plumpton recently – and is 16lb higher in the weights as a result.
When told his charge was the clear favourite for the Imperial Cup, Moore said: “I think it’s total madness.
“He’s gone up 16lb for a winning a small race at Plumpton. He probably went into it well handicapped, but he’s come out of it badly handicapped as far as I’m concerned.
“I think it will be a tough ask for him on only his fourth run over hurdles. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be backing him at 3-1 anyway.”
Langer Dan is well fancied for the formidable combination of Dan and Harry Skelton.
Dan Skelton said: “Langer Dan ran well at Market Rasen the last day and is probably one of those horses that as a second-season hurdler, going from juveniles and novices, has just taken a while to find his feet.
“I think Sandown will really suit him, because he wants a stiff finish and he didn’t have that at Market Rasen. I’m not saying he is going to win, but he goes there in good health and should run well.”
Paul Nicholls saddles top-weight Miranda, as well as Diego Du Charmil and Malaya, winner of the race two years ago.
He told Betfair: “Miranda looked very good when winning a Grade Two mares’ hurdle at Doncaster at the end of January but keeps going up in the weights, so the 7lb claim of Angus Cheleda will certainly help. I expect her to run another solid race.
“Diego Du Charmil is talented and versatile, and did a lovely piece of work at Wincanton last week. He goes well fresh and is in good order.
“I have to admit Malaya was a bit disappointing last time at Ascot, where I felt the step up in trip would be in her favour. But after watching her that day, I am not convinced that is the case.
“While Malaya can be a bit in and out, she won this race two years ago, so we know the track suits her well – and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her bounce back to form.”
Umbrigado’s dramatic triumph for David Pipe and David Noonan in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury left owners John White and Anne Underhill dreaming of realising their long-held ambition of a winner at the Cheltenham Festival.
Their steadily-progressing seven-year-old travelled strongly throughout the two-and-a-half-mile contest, and under a confident ride by Noonan prevailed after jumping the final fence three lengths down and with three horses still in front of him.
The 13-2 chance fiddled that obstacle but it did not impair his momentum, and when The Big Bite veered left towards the water jump Umbrigado took advantage of being wider than his foes, his strong finish launching him to a length and length and a quarter success over Killer Clown and the wayward last-fence leader.
Umbrigado holds entries in two races at the Festival and was cut from 14-1 into 10-1 for the Paddy Power Plate with the sponsors.
However, Pipe is mindful that the Festival is sooner than ideal, and said: “We entered him in the Grand Annual and the old Mildmay of Flete at Cheltenham but weren’t sure, and today’s race was a good payday in its own right.
“Coming into today I wasn’t certain about the ground, but David gave him a great ride. He’s a strong traveller, but doesn’t always find as much as you think he will in a finish. What we had today was a bit of luck with the leader hanging, and we were in the right place to cash in.
“Regarding Cheltenham we will go by the owners and see what they want to do. They would love to have a runner with a good chance, but whether it’s the two-and-a-half-miler on Thursday or the Grand Annual on Wednesday it could come a bit quick.”
Noonan deserved this big-race success and his mount will now be brim-full of confidence following three wins since going chasing.
He said: “I planned to settle him halfway back and give him a bit of room. He’d idled a bit when taking the lead at Wetherby, but today he battled well on ground that was the best he’d run on.
“Even at the last I was confident I wasn’t out of it, and he powered to the line. He hasn’t had an overly-hard race, and he’s adaptable in the way he can be ridden.”
David Pipe views JCB Triumph Hurdle contender Adagio as his best chance of a winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
The Pond House handler has enjoyed a fine season to date – and believes he has assembled a “small but select team” for the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds, which gets under way in less than a fortnight’s time.
Pipe acknowledges this year’s Festival will have a different feel to it because of Covid restrictions, but is nevertheless relishing the prospect of sending his stable stars to the Cotswolds.
Speaking on a press Zoom call following publication of the weights for the Festival handicaps, Pipe said: “Obviously it’s different this year, but everyone is still trying to prepare their horses for Cheltenham.
“Our horses are in good form and have been running well. We’ve got a small but select team going there.
“I think we’re in a positive mood. It’s amazing how the atmosphere in any yard changes in the two weeks before Cheltenham – when you’ve got a few horses going there with a chance.
“Everyone gets a bit uptight and excited. Most of the hard work has been done, and now it’s a case of ticking them over and getting them there on the day.
“It’s very hard to win at Cheltenham. That’s why it’s very special when you do.”
The Pipe squad is led by Adagio, who has won three of his four starts over hurdles this season – most recently claiming Grade One honours in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in January.
“My best chance is probably in the toughest race – Adagio,” he said.
“It looks an ultra-competitive Triumph Hurdle, but our fellow hasn’t done much wrong and is improving with every run.
“After his last run he did have a little colic, which meant he missed a week, but he’s had a good preparation since.
“It’s obviously a concern at the time, but since then everything has gone well.
“He’ll have an away-day somewhere before Cheltenham, and we’re very much looking forward to it.”
One of the yard’s other big hopes is Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase winner Remastered, who holds three entries.
Pipe added: “I thought it was a really good performance (at Ascot). It probably wasn’t a great Reynoldstown, but he beat the horses that were put in front of him and battled really well all the way to the line.
“He’ll either go for the Ultima or the National Hunt Chase. It will probably come down to ground – if it is softer ground maybe the Ultima, if it’s better ground then maybe the three-mile-six-furlong novice.
“A lot of his form is on soft or heavy ground, so he would prefer it to be on the slower side. But saying that, the only time we’ve run him on better ground was at Newbury in a novice hurdle, where he finished second to Dashel Drasher, so that form isn’t looking too bad.”
Pipe is hoping the application of headgear might coax some improvement out of Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle outsider Main Fact.
He said: “We’ll probably take our chance.
“For me, he disappointed (in the Long Walk) at Ascot, but bounced back with a good run to finish fourth at Haydock.
“Obviously he’s a big price and an outsider, but we will be putting some type of headgear on him in the Stayers’ Hurdle, to help horse and jockey in the early stages.
“He deserves to take his chance. Softer ground would be better for him. Why not have a go?”
Pipe has yet to decide between the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett for Make Me A Believer, while Leoncavallo is viewed as an “interesting” contender for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, a race son David would love to finally win.
He said: “The harder I try to win it, the less likely it seems to be that I’m going to!
“Every year there seems to be more entries in the Martin Pipe than any other other race at Cheltenham.
“We have a few entries for it. Leoncavallo is an interesting horse – he had a good season on the Flat last year.
“He’s in the Martin Pipe and the County Hurdle. He’s rated high enough on 142 and he’s nine years old – but he’s in very good form, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if he ran a big race in whichever one he goes for.”
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David Pipe is confident his JCB Triumph Hurdle contender Adagio has ticks in all the right boxes.
A winner of three of his four outings to date, Adagio already has a Grade One win next to his name – having won the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.
That form was let down at the weekend when the runner-up, Gary Moore’s Nassalam, was well beaten at Haydock – but Pipe nevertheless thinks Adagio remains on the upgrade.
Pipe said: “Adagio has made a lot of improvement, although it was a bit worrying to see the second horse get beaten at Haydock the other day.
“I would say that my horse has a lot of ticks next to his name, because he’s already won at Cheltenham and is a very good jumper.
“Let’s see who is the best juvenile – we will only find that out on the day.”
One who may skip Cheltenham is Umbrigado, a winner at Fontwell and Wetherby recently.
“Umbrigado won very nicely at Wetherby – but whether he goes to the Festival or not is uncertain,” said Pipe.
“The owners have had winners there, but they are not hell bent on it, and it’s not out of the question that we will keep things more low-key with him.”
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2.57454776-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2021-02-23 16:15:482021-02-23 16:15:48Pipe has faith in Adagio
Remastered put in an exemplary jumping display to make every yard of the running for trainer David Pipe and jockey Tom Scudamore in the Grade Two Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot.
The 9-2 winner is likely to head to the National Hunt Chase or Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival – for which he is respectively 20-1 (from 33) and 25-1 (from 33) with Paddy Power.
Remastered appeared to face a major threat from 5-2 favourite Demachine rounding the home turn, but Pipe’s front-runner found extra to score by four lengths.
Scudamore was suitably impressed, and said: “He jumped superbly all the way round, and fences have made a real man of him.
“He’s unbeaten over fences and has really taken to them. He’s got plenty of options at Cheltenham. He’s only run once there before, but that was over hurdles and a couple of years ago.”
Second-favourite Sevarano pulled up in the early stages – while Kalooki looked dangerous until hitting the final ditch, four out, and then fading to finish a distant third.
Sadly, Sevarano suffered a fatal injury – confirmed via Twitter by the Oliver Sherwood stable.
A tweet read: “We are all devastated to lose Sevarano today @ascot_races. He had the world at his feet. He was such a lovely laid-back gentleman who didn’t deserve his life to end this way. Thank you for all your wonderful memories.”
In the opening greatbritishstallionshowcase.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle, the market told the story as Midnight River usurped Gallyhill as favourite – and then got the better of that rival in a rousing finish.
One True King made a bold attempt to lead throughout, but a mistake at the penultimate flight set him back – leaving 5-4 shot Midnight River and Harry Skelton to beat Gallyhill and Nico de Boinville by a length and a half.
After riding another winner for his brother Dan, Skelton said: “He’s a horse we’ve always liked, with a good attitude.
“He used to be a bit free but has been taught to settle, and I think the best is yet to come because he’s a three-mile chaser of the future.
“We might look at Cheltenham, and certainly Aintree, but fences are the main objective.”
The Skeltons completed a double when Captain Chaos made virtually all the running in the ‘My Oddsboost’ On Betfair Swinley Limited Handicap Chase.
Accompanied by Cobolobo for three-quarters of the three-mile journey, the 10-1 winner shook off the attentions of that rival turning for home, but in the end was all out to hold the late rally of Regal Encore by a head.
The strongly-supported 3-1 favourite Jerrysback recovered from an early mistake to track the clear leaders, but then lost touch and was pulled up by Richard Johnson.
Harry Skelton praised the accurate jumping of the winner and observed: “He really enjoyed himself and took off again when Jonjo’s (O’Neill jnr, on Cobolobo) horse came back at him. It was a brilliant jumping display and all credit to our superb team who worked so hard during the bad weather.”
A fantastic treble for the Skeltons was achieved in carbon-copy fashion as Shannon Bridge served it up to his foes from the front in the Betfair Cheltenham Free Bet Pot Builder Handicap Hurdle.
In the knowledge his mount liked to be competitive, Harry Skelton wasted no time in sending his 12-1 partner to the front and although under strong pressure before two out the eight-year-old kept responding.
He was briefly headed by 80-1 outsider Thibault on the run-in, but instantly regained the initiative to pull two lengths clear.
Skelton observed: “Our owners are great about the way I ride the horses and never stick me down to do one thing or the other. Shannon Bridge likes to get on with it, and the blinkers have helped. He just idled a bit over the last two hurdles, but just as suddenly he took off again.”
Adam West was thrilled with bargain-basement purchase Thibault, saying: “He cost a grand and has been a revelation since we put him back over hurdles. He’s given us another great thrill today.”
There was a sad postscript to the race, with the popular L’Ami Serge quickly pulled up after the sixth flight, having looked to have gone wrong. Yalltari, in the race won by Captain Chaos, was another casualty.
Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs Nick Smith extended his sympathy to all those involved with the three horses.
He said: “It’s always very sad when these things happen, and we extend our sympathy to all the connections.”
Oliver Sherwood is optimistic about the chances of Sevarano in the Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot.
With ante-post principals The Big Breakaway and If The Cap Fits notable defectors at Thursday’s declaration stage, Sherwood believes his representative has a “favourite’s chance” of landing Saturday’s Grade Two contest.
“I’m guessing one or two maybe didn’t want to run and leave their Cheltenham behind, whereas our horse isn’t even entered at Cheltenham and purposely wasn’t going to go there,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.
A talented hurdler last season, Sevarano looks likely to scale even greater heights over fences, having won two of his first three starts this season.
He could finish only fourth on his latest appearance at Newbury in December, but Sherwood has a valid excuse.
He added: “It was unfortunate what happened at Newbury. He slipped into the first fence, and it unnerved him, but he schooled super on Thursday morning and is in a really good place.
“This is the time to step up in trip – I’ve been dying to do it – and he handled this sort of ground over hurdles last year. He’s a big, strong boy now as an eight-year-old – and I’m sure he’ll handle it.
“I’m very happy with him, and he doesn’t get a penalty for his two wins this season because they were handicaps.
“I think he’s going there with a favourite’s chance.”
A six-strong field is headed by the Fergal O’Brien-trained Hurricane Harvey, who must shoulder a 5lb penalty for winning the Grade Two December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster last time out.
“He’s having to carry a penalty, which isn’t ideal, but there aren’t many options for him,” said O’Brien.
“There was a novice handicap at Doncaster next week, but again he’d be giving weight away.
“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It was great to win a Grade Two with him, but it makes the rest of the season tougher. Having said that, you’d take a Grade Two every time.
“It’s a rich man’s problem, as they say.”
David Pipe’s Remastered faces a step up in class after winning his first two starts over fences at Carlisle and Wetherby.
Pipe said: “He’s got a bit to find on official ratings, but he likes soft ground, three miles around Ascot will be ideal – and he jumps well.
“It was a decent enough race that he won first time over fences at Carlisle, and then it was just a two-horse race he won at Wetherby, but he deserves to take his chance and has conditions to suit.”
Full Back is in a similar boat after winning at Plumpton and Exeter for Gary Moore, who said: “Hopefully he goes very well. He wouldn’t want too much more rain, he just doesn’t like it too heavy. I know he won in heavier ground, but he’s got away with it a bit.
“He’s in a good place, and this has always been the target, so hopefully he can give a good account of himself.”
Demachine (Kerry Lee) and Kalooki (Philip Hobbs) complete the line-up.
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