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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.”

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.”

Murphy eyes Haydock hurdles return for Kalashnikov

Kalashnikov is set to return to the smaller obstacles in the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle.

Amy Murphy’s star has proved himself a very smart performer over fences in the last two seasons, winning a Grade One as a novice at Aintree and finishing second in the Old Roan last year.

His form tailed off in the second half of the campaign, though, when he broke blood vessels, and he faces a step up in trip back over hurdles on Saturday.

Murphy said: “We’re very much planning to run as long as it is not bottomless.

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“He stayed two and a half miles well last year. Obviously he’s had a few issues, so this is very much a starting point for him.

“We’ll just take it as it comes for the rest of the season – if he loves it on Saturday he could stay over hurdles, but the plan is just to get him back on song – fingers crossed we have no more bleeding episodes.

“Prior to those last two runs, he’d never been out of the first two (when completing) and both times he bled.

“We’ve put everything into getting him back. We’ve given him plenty of time, we’ve freshened him up and please God it was something underlying rather than him having an issue.”

There are 24 still in contention for the £80,000 prize, which is no longer run over fixed brush hurdles.

David Pipe’s prolific winner Main Fact is among the market leaders, having lost just once in nine outings for current connections.

His last three wins have come on the Flat, seeing him rise from a mark of 60 to 78 – while his current jumps rating of 147 is 49lb higher than when he joined the yard. Pipe could also run Duc De Beauchene.

Midlands Grand National – Uttoxeter Racecourse
Main Fact arrives on a winning streak (Tim Goode/PA)

There are two possible Irish contenders in Colm Murphy’s Relegate, winner of the 2018 Champion Bumper for Willie Mullins, and The Jam Man – trained in Northern Ireland by Ronan McNally.

The Jam Man was last seen bolting up off a much lower mark over fences in the valuable Troytown Chase at Navan.

Hughie Morrison’s Third Wind, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone, Royal Ascot winner Who Dares Wins and Fergal O’Brien’s Imperial Alcazar are just a few other potential major contenders in what is sure to be a competitive affair.

Last year’s Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase winner Itchy Feet is among the entries for the Graduation Chase on the card – but he is also entered in a Grade Two at Ascot.

Good Boy Bobby, Master Tommytucker and Windsor Avenue are possible opponents should he run on Merseyside.