Vieux Lion Rouge out to extend unique Aintree record

David Pipe’s Vieux Lion Rouge returns to Aintree for the William Hill Becher Chase – and what will be his ninth run over the famous Grand National fences.

Winner of the Becher Chase in 2016, the 11-year-old has completed the course every time he has turned up on Merseyside – which includes four attempts in the big race itself.

He finished sixth behind One For Arthur in 2017 and has also been second in the 2018 Becher to Walk In The Mill, who will bid for a hat-trick on Saturday.

“Vieux Lion Rouge has jumped more Grand National fences than any other horse – 202,” said Pipe.

“He’s run in four Grand Nationals, four Bechers and he lights up to the occasion – and he actually jumps those fences better than the normal park fences.

“While he’s not getting any younger, he’s in great form at home, and for both of mine the more rain the better before Saturday.”

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Pipe is also set to run the fancied Ramses De Teillee, who won at Cheltenham first time out this season.

“We haven’t worked out who rides him (Vieux Lion Rouge) yet, but whoever does will no doubt be in for a wonderful ride,” Pipe added, in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“Tom (Scudamore) will ride Ramses De Teillee after his great run at Cheltenham the other day.

“Obviously there won’t be the same amount of people as normal, but Vieux Lion Rouge knows the occasion. He knows the paddock – and once he gets shown the first fence, he knows what it is all about.

“I don’t know why he is better over these fences, but his track record tells you that he is.

Ramses De Teillee (left) came out on top in a battle with Yala Enki at Cheltenham
Ramses De Teillee (left) came out on top in a battle with Yala Enki at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We’ve had both horses since they were four. Ramses is only eight, (and) I keep thinking he’s older than what he is – he loves soft ground, he battled well at Cheltenham and came out of that race extremely well.

“Obviously he ran in the Grand National last year – and while it said he didn’t complete what happened was at the Canal Turn second time round one of his reins broke and he did actually finish but just on one rein.

“We watched the video of the 2019 National with his owners, John White and Anne Underhill, to decide whether to come here or the Welsh National.

“He made mistakes at the third and fourth – but apart from that he jumped everything else very well, and we think it warrants having another go.

“Ramses would have to be the stronger fancy of the two – he’s going there in good form, which is why he’s running on Saturday, to strike while the iron is hot rather than wait another month (for the Welsh National), because you never know what is around the corner.”

Pipe has his own experience in the saddle over the famous fences as an amateur – having ridden Aherlow Glen for his father Martin in the 1993 Fox Hunters’.

“I stupidly rode over the fences in the Fox Hunters’ and finished nearly last,” he said.

“I had a great thrill. The tapes went up, and they went so quick I got left behind.

“There was a poor lady at the side of the rail taking pictures, which you were allowed to in those days. My dad asked her to take a picture of us – she was a complete stranger but she very kindly sent a picture in the post.”

Main Fact may target perfect 10 at Ascot

Main Fact may bid to stretch his remarkable winning streak to double figures in the Grade One Marsh Hurdle at Ascot next month.

A close-up third on his first start for David Pipe at Exeter last December, the seven-year-old has proved unbeatable in 2020 thus far – racking up five successive hurdling wins and a hat-trick on the Flat, before his latest assignment back over jumps at Haydock.

Main Fact faced a significant step up in distance and class in last Saturday’s Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle, but charged home from an uncompromising position to make it nine on the bounce in the Merseyside mud.

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He could now aim to complete his fairytale rise with a Grade One success in a race better known as the Long Walk on December 19.

Pipe said: “He’s come out of the race well, and I think we’ll give him an entry in the Long Walk at Ascot. It closes next week, so we’ll stick him in and see what happens.

“The handicapper has put him up 7lb, so he’s rated 154 now and hasn’t got too many options.

Fergus Gillard splattered with mud after winning aboard Main Fact at Haydock
Fergus Gillard splattered with mud after winning aboard Main Fact at Haydock (David Clough/PA)

“We’ve still got a long way to go to be in the same category as the likes of Paisley Park (rated 167) – but at the same time, everyone involved is living the dream.”

Bought out of Dianne Sayer’s yard for just £6,000 in the spring of 2018, Pipe believes Main Fact is the first horse trained at Pond House – the former base of his father and 15-time champion trainer, Martin – to win nine a row.

He added: “We’ve spoken about it since Saturday and we don’t think we’ve ever had one win nine in a row before. My father had one or two horses win eight, but not nine, so it’s nice to beat him at something!

“I’m not sure how I managed to get him beaten off 98 at Exeter last year! It reminds me of Celestial Gold, who won the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Hennessy (in 2004) – I managed to get him beaten in a point-to-point before he won his next three!

“When we bought him (Main Fact) we thought he’d be a good, fun horse for a syndicate – and the price was right. He had some form in the book and was bred by Juddmonte.

“We obviously never dreamed he was going to do this. It’s great for everyone involved and great for racing, as it shows everyone has a chance.”

Pipe considering Aintree and Chepstow options for Teillee

The Becher Chase at Aintree and the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow are both under consideration for Ramses De Teillee following his battling victory at Cheltenham.

The high-class staying chaser successfully switched back to the smaller obstacles to win a couple of Grade Two novice hurdles last season, before finishing down the field in the Albert Bartlett and in the French Champion Hurdle.

He got back on the winning trail with a short-head triumph over Yala Enki in a Grade Three event at Prestbury Park and could tackle the Grand National fences on his next appearance.

Pipe said: “What a horse. He battled all the way to the line and he’s been brilliant for his owners and everyone at Pond House.

“He’s entered in the Becher at Aintree and the Welsh National and I expect he’ll be going for one of them.

“The Becher might come a bit quick as he had a tough race the other day, but it’s a possibility. We’ll see what the ground is like, too.”

Magnificent Main Fact makes it nine in a row

Main Fact finished with an admirable flourish to extend his remarkable winning run to nine and lift a thoroughly lucrative prize in the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.

The seven-year-old has been a revelation since joining David Pipe, being beaten off a mark of 98 in December before winning each of his next eight starts to line up on Merseyside off a 49lb higher rating.

Returning to jumping action for the first time since March after three wins on the level, Fergus Gillard took off a useful 7lb in this ultra-competitive heat and Main Fact was among the market leaders as a 13-2 chance.

His supporters might have been worried with Main Fact back in the pack for much of the race, as Wholestone and Clyne set the pace, but with one hurdle to jump, Gillard had manoeuvred his mount into fourth and produced a perfectly-timed challenge to snatch glory.

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Main Fact powered past his rivals to come home two and three-quarter lengths clear of Third Wind, with Highland Hunter third.

A delighted Pipe was not on Merseyside, but he said from his Pond House base: “He’s a freak of a horse really, isn’t he?

“His relations are graded horses in America, and he’s bred by Juddmonte – and obviously, this was a career-best today.

“The rain came for us, which obviously he loves.

“Not that I could see much on the TV, but Fergus gave him a great ride. They’ve got a great partnership.

“He’s not pretty to watch in his races. But he’s there at the finish – which is the most important thing.”

He went on: “I was thinking the same the thing (not to be today) – but you just hope he’s starting to stay on.

“We weren’t certain to get the three miles – even though it was likely – but he’s got every yard of it, and he’s probably idled when he’s got to the front again.”

On future plans, Pipe said: “I suppose it has to be (graded races now).

“Because of his style of running, soft or heavy ground is probably pretty important – but at the same time, he deserves to go up in grade again. This was a fantastic race, but he probably deserves to go into graded company.

“We’ll stick at this (staying trip) now. He has to improve again, but he’s going to go up into the 150s now, so you have to take him seriously.”

Main Fact out to cap sequence with ninth successive win

Main Fact bids to extend his remarkable winning sequence to nine in the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.

Since finishing a close-up third on his first start for David Pipe at Exeter in December, the seven-year-old racked up five successive hurdling wins before reverting to the Flat to complete a hat-trick.

He steps up in distance and class for his return to the jumping game in a race his trainer has won three times over the last decade with Grand Crus (2010), Dynaste (2011) and Gevrey Chambertin (2013).

Pipe said: “It’s going to be a lot tougher for him now off a mark of 147, but he’s well and Fergus (Gillard) takes 7lb off.

“We’re trying three miles for the first time. He gives the impression he’ll get it – he’s been winning over two miles on the Flat, which usually means they’ll get three miles over hurdles. That is not always the case, but hopefully it will be on this occasion

“This is a good race to go for, and if he gets the trip he has a chance.”

On bidding for a ninth successive win, Pipe added: “I think dad (Martin Pipe) might have won eight in a row with Indian Jockey (in the 1990s) and I remember Marcel winning a lot of races in a row as well.

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“We might need to go one better!”

Ronan McNally (left) and Paul Townend with The Jam Man after winning the Troytown
Ronan McNally (left) and Paul Townend with The Jam Man after winning the Troytown (PA)

Ronan McNally is hoping his contender The Jam Man can bag his second major prize in the space of a fortnight, following a wide-margin success in the Troytown Chase at Navan.

Irish amateur Maxine O’Sullivan takes over in the saddle from champion jockey Paul Townend, with McNally keen to find out whether his charge is worth a tilt at Grade One glory in the Marsh Hurdle – better known as the Long Walk – at Ascot on December 19.

“He seems in good form. He had a week off after Navan and has done a couple of light canters this week,” said the Armagh-based trainer.

“It’s always a worry coming back so soon, but the race on Saturday ties in nicely if we want to go to Ascot for the Grade One – I could have waited for a race at Newbury next week or a race the week after back at Navan, but I wanted a month between the two races.

“I suppose the race at Haydock will tell us if we’re even good enough to go to Ascot or not – at least we’ll have a few answers.”

The Jam Man is joined on the trip across the Irish Sea by former Champion Bumper winner Relegate.

Now with Colm Murphy, having previously been trained by Willie Mullins, the seven-year-old blew away any cobwebs when fourth in last month’s Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.

Murphy said: “She seems good. I’m hoping the step back up to three miles should really benefit her.

“It was all happening a bit quick for her at Navan over two and a half miles. I think three miles will be more up her alley.

“It’s a nice pot, and we’re hoping she’ll run well.”

Collooney (white cap) in action at Fontwell
Collooney (white cap) in action at Fontwell (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Olly Murphy relies on the JP McManus-owed Collooney after I K Brunel was withdrawn on account of the ground.

Murphy said: “Collooney is in good form, and we’ve been happy with him since winning at Fontwell last time.

“I think a bit of soft ground and stepping up to three miles will suit, and he has an each-way chance.”

Other hopefuls include Fergal O’Brien’s pair of Imperial Alcazar and Ask Dillon, Amy Murphy’s top-weight Kalashnikov and the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Wholestone.

Ladbrokes Trophy on radar after Siruh’s early Paddy Power exit

Siruh Du Lac may attempt to gain compensation in Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy after his early Paddy Power Gold Cup exit.

The seven-year-old failed to complete for the third race in succession when he parted company with Tom Scudamore at the first fence in Saturday’s Grade Three handicap at Cheltenham, on his stable debut for David Pipe.

Assessing future plans, Pipe is considering stepping Siruh Du Lac up to three and a quarter miles for the first time on November 28, in a race for which he is a general 20-1 shot.

Pipe said: “It was over very quickly in the Paddy Power on Saturday – and there were a few expletives, that’s safe to say!

“That’s racing, though, these things happen and he seemed fine after the race.

“He is in the Ladbrokes Trophy and he might go there, or we might just wait and go back to Cheltenham in December for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.”

Pipe eyeing Gold run for new recruit Siruh Du Lac

David Pipe believes Siruh Du Lac will have to take another step forward if he is to make a winning debut for the stable in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The seven-year-old gelding, who also holds an entry in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on November 28, was pulled up in the Grade Three prize last year when trained by Nick Williams.

Though failing to complete either of his two starts last term, Siruh Du Lac had previously looked a horse on an upward curve having completed a four-timer over fences culminating with victory in the 2019 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Plate at the Festival.

New handler Pipe said: “He does have a Ladbrokes Trophy entry, but I would probably say he will go for the Paddy Power as long as the ground is right.

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“He looks a lovely horse to have at the yard and his form is in the book for all to see. We gave him a wind operation during the summer and he works like a nice horse.

“He would have to improve to win the Paddy Power off his mark of 150, but he is a decent horse and he is still only seven.”

Pipe reports the Anne Underhill and John White-owned gelding to have settled into his new surroundings well.

He added: “He came in during lockdown, so we had him during the summer and he has had a good summer.

“Last season he had a heavy fall at Cheltenham and he pulled up in this race, so it didn’t quite work out for him on track.

“He has been in with us for a while now and he is fairly straightforward. He is a good addition to the yard.”

Stablemate Panic Attack could also be Cheltenham bound, with Pipe earmarking the Valda Energy Handicap Hurdle on Friday as a possible target.

After finding only Vegas Blue too strong on her hurdles debut at Huntingdon, the Listed bumper winner went one better on her most recent start at Uttoxeter.

Pipe added: “It was a good performance at Uttoxeter and she showed a good attitude to win up there.

“She will have an entry in the two-mile novice handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday and we will take a look at that.”

Dusart upholds family tradition with perfect start at Newbury

Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville took the plaudits at Newbury with a short-priced treble highlighted by the victory of exciting newcomer Dusart.

Although the Flemensfirth gelding has a long way to go to emulate his Grade One-winning half-brother Simonsig, there was plenty to like about his two-and-a-half-length debut success in the Download The tote App Novices’ Hurdle.

Henderson said of the 7-4 shot: “We’ve looked at lots of Simonsig’s relations over the years. Ronnie’s (Bartlett, owner) words were always the same – ‘could Maradona’s brother play football!’.

“He went to Ian Ferguson’s and he would have run in a point-to-point in the spring for Ian as Simonsig started with Ian as well. He has done nothing but please you at home as he was very well educated thanks to Ian.

“He works great and jumps so well, that’s why I didn’t bother with a bumper. Nico said he was fantastic. For his first run of his life he knew his job well.”

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Gran Luna (4-11) was forced to pull out all the stops before defeating Will Victory in the Ten To Follow Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle by half a length.

Henderson said: “She just blew up at the last and you need to get your second wind. If you blow up that late it’s a bad time to blow up.

“I would have thought she is probably likely to come back here for the Listed race later in the month.”

Morning Vicar (5-2) put in a bold round of jumping to open his account over fences with a fine front-running success in the Indzine Handicap Chase to complete Henderson’s and De Boinville’s three-timer.

The Seven Barrows handler added: “His jumping today was good, but he has been having some tuition and that has made a big difference.

“He ran a good race at Uttoxeter, but probably didn’t stay the trip. He loved that ground and the trip (two and a half miles). Everything was in his favour today.”

Petrossian gave Harry Cobden a winner on his 22nd birthday along with bringing up trainer Paul Nicholls’ half-century for the season in division one of the Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Assistant trainer Harry Derham said of the 5-2 winner: “His work at home has always been outstanding and it was lovely to see him translate it to the track.

“Harry hoped they might go a bit quicker, but he travelled very smoothly and showed a good turn of foot. He will have a light campaign in bumpers this season.

“That is 50 for Paul this season. A lot of this is down to the incredible support of our owners and the backing they have given Paul in a challenging time.”

The 11-times champion trainer was also on the mark with Tomorrow Mystery (6-5), who made her return a winning one in the Ten To Follow Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Veteran campaigner Dell Arca continued his recent revival at the age of 11 when backing up his last-time-out success at Aintree by a length and a half to claim a second victory in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

Pipe, who also landed the three-mile prize in 2017, said: “What a legend of a horse he has been for Caroline Tisdall and for us at Pond House.

“Caroline was watching at home and she was in tears as he and Vieux Lion Rouge were two of the first horses she bought.

“My partner Leanne rides him out most of the time and she said he was in cracking form, so we had to take a chance as he was 5lb well in and it has paid off.”

Andrew Mullen booked for Leoncavallo Cesarewitch ride

Andrew Mullen has picked up the ride on David Pipe’s Leoncavallo in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch at Newmarket on Saturday.

The versatile eight-year-old, who is also a winner over hurdles and fences, is due to carry just 8st 2lb in the second leg of the autumn double.

Last seen winning by almost five lengths at Haydock, Pipe had been concerned whether Leoncavallo would make the cut, but the field thinned out considerably at the confirmation stage.

“We actually weren’t sure if we were going to get in, but the race cut up a lot at the five-day stage,” said Pipe.

“We’re in there off a nice weight, I don’t think he’ll mind the ground and he’s had a good preparation.

“Last year he would have got in, but the year before he wouldn’t have. I discussed it with James Couldwell (racing manager of owners, Value Racing Club) and we decided to take a chance in not running again and it’s worked out.

“We’ve just booked Andrew Mullen to ride him. He’s only got 8st 2lb so it’s a feather weight.

“He was impressive at Haydock, obviously this is a lot harder, but he ticks a lot of the boxes.

“He’s a fantastic horse for a syndicate. We haven’t had him that long at Pond House, but he’s one of the yard favourites already. He’s not over-big, but he’s tough, hardy and obviously has a lot of ability as well.”

Pipe is dual-purpose trainer and for many the jumps season begins this weekend at Chepstow, but the Pond House handler is not expecting to be that busy in Wales.

“I don’t think we’ll have that many, we usually kick off a bit later. We’ll probably have one or two runners. Main Fact and Poker Play are in the Silver Trophy, but I haven’t decided if they’ll run yet,” he said.

Leoncavallo is joint 8-1 favourite with most firms along with Andrew Balding’s Coltrane for the Cesarewitch – a race Pipe’s father, Martin, won twice with Heroes Fatal and Miss Fara in 2000 and 2002.