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Leoncavallo heads Pipe’s bid to uphold Imperial tradition

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.

Blowing Wind and Tony McCoy after winning at Cheltenham
Blowing Wind and Tony McCoy after winning at Cheltenham (Barry Batchelor/PA)

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.

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“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.”

Natural History impressed at Plumpton
Natural History impressed at Plumpton (PA)

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.”

Miranda is one of three runners for Paul Nicholls
Miranda is one of three runners for Paul Nicholls (David Davies/PA)

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.”

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.