Tag Archive for: Pied Piper

Pied Piper appeal against Aintree demotion fails

An appeal against the demotion of Gordon Elliott’s Pied Piper in the Grade One Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree has been dismissed by an independent panel.

The horse and Milton Harris’ Knight Salute were initially regarded to have dead-heated in the two-mile-one-furlong affair, but a stewards’ inquiry was then called into interference suffered by Knight Salute over the final flight.

Pied Piper, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell, drifted towards the left on the approach to the last hurdle, straying into the path of Paddy Brennan and Knight Salute and forcing them off their line.

Brennan was pushed left for three strides before pulling his whip through into his left hand and straightening his mount, who then rallied to the line and passed the post exactly level with Pied Piper.

The stewards later chose to demote Pied Piper as a result of the interference, making Knight Salute the outright winner of the race despite Brennan stating explicitly that his chances had not been hampered.

Andrew and Gemma Brown, owners of Pied Piper under the Caldwell Construction banner, opted to appeal the demotion and were represented by Rory Mac Neice as the British Horseracing Authority case was put forward by Louis Weston.

A three-person panel comprising of HH Philip Curl, Ian Stark OBE and Steve Winfield heard evidence and submissions from both parties, with Russell appearing virtually from Nashville ahead of his ride aboard Nicky Henderson’s Pistol Whipped at Percy Warner Park on Saturday.

After a brief deliberation the panel chose to dismiss the appeal and adhere to the initial findings of the stewards’ inquiry, leaving Knight Salute the winner of the race and Pied Piper the runner-up.

Weston argued that as the two horses were inseparable at the finish, any interference at all must be considered to have had an impact on the final result.

Knight Salute ridden by Paddy Brennan (right) and Pied Piper ridden by Davy Russell
Knight Salute ridden by Paddy Brennan (right) and Pied Piper ridden by Davy Russell (David Davies/PA)

He said: “This was a dead heat, all you need to find is that he’s (Knight Salute) gone one blade of grass further, that he’s been checked for a millisecond and he’s been unable to take the momentum forward that he wanted.

“That’s what the stewards said and they were right.”

Brennan maintained the same stance that he took in the immediate stewards’ inquiry, stressing that he had been intending to mount a late challenge and head for the rail and that therefore an incident that halted his momentum some way from the line and pushed him towards the rail was not a hinderance.

“What I said on the day is exactly how I feel today, nothing’s changed, I felt I had a fair crack at it and that’s the way it was,” he told the panel.

“I wanted to play my cards as late as possible because I didn’t want to help Davy Russell, getting upsides him before the last wouldn’t be a help for me.

Paddy Brennan and Davy Russell congratulate one another after the race in question
Paddy Brennan and Davy Russell congratulate one another after the race in question (Steven Paston/PA)

“I was always going to have to switch, either to the left or to the right, obviously I wanted the rail so Davy’s horse having a look at the last forced me to go there and I was happy to have the rail.”

Mac Neice’s submission revolved around the suggestion that Pied Piper was prone to idling when alone in front and only began to race in earnest when joined in the final strides by Knight Salute.

It was this locking of horns, Mac Neice put forward, that benefited Pied Piper and ultimately won him the race, not the inconvenience Brennan suffered at the last.

He told the panel: “The problem with Knight Salute was not what happened at the last, it was that Pied Piper rallied when Knight Salute was challenging.

“Far from being hindered, Mr Brennan said what happened at the last made absolutely no difference to him, he was waiting until after the last anyway.

Pied Piper jumping across Knight Salute at the last hurdle
Pied Piper jumping across Knight Salute at the last hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

“Cat and mouse was how he put it, he was content to gain the advantage of the rail, which requires him to go to the left.”

Russell lamented his ride on Pied Piper, telling the panel he had hit the front far too early and that what won him the race was not Knight Salute’s impediment but his eventual ability to rally on the line.

He said: “What has happened in these circumstances is that one rider has given their horse a fantastic ride and one rider has given their horse a very, very poor ride. Paddy Brennan has excelled, I have not been shown in my greatest light.

“I want someone to come and join me because I know he’s going to idle, I’m getting no response from my horse and he’s not giving me everything he’s got.

“The stick is not making any difference to him. I thought I was going to get beaten and passed but when Mr Brennan’s horse came into my horse’s eye line, he saw and responded and then battled back to the line.”

Knight Salute lands dramatic Juvenile Hurdle after stewards’ inquiry

Knight Salute was awarded a dramatic Jewson Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle by the stewards at Aintree after initially dead-heating with Pied Piper

Pied Piper, third in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, was sent off the 10-11 favourite to get back to winning ways and certainly brought the strongest form to the table.

Knight Salute (14-1) has been a revelation this season for his resurgent trainer Milton Harris, but had finished well beaten at Cheltenham, some 17 lengths behind Pied Piper.

That looked an outlier, though, as prior to that he had won his other five races this season, including two Grade Twos, and he was right back to his best on this occasion.

Paddy Brennan had clearly decided to play his hand last of all, and he tracked Davy Russell on the Gordon Elliott-trained market leader for the whole race.

Approaching the last Russell must have felt he had matters in hand as he had not asked a single question – but Pied Piper did not jump the final flight well and gave Knight Salute a nudge, which caused a stewards’ inquiry to be called after the long wait for the initial photo to be announced.

Despite the coming together at the last, Knight Salute was able to edge in front on the run-in, only for Pied Piper to battle back and claim a share of the spoils right on the line – or so it seemed.

A lengthy inquiry followed and even though Brennan told the stewards he felt the contact did not affect the result and he was happy with the outcome, the officials disagreed which meant Harris had landed his first Grade One winner to cap a great season.

The Boodles winner Brazil checked out on the run to the last and was beaten 12 lengths back in third.

Harris said: “He cost 14 grand and gives everyone a bit of optimism.

“Brennan is his own man and said thank you for sticking with him, and he didn’t knock the horse about when his chance had gone in the Triumph.

“He could run anything down, this horse, but the juveniles are still 15lb below the Champion Hurdle horses.

“That’s why we were going to take him for a race in America later in the year with a view to possibly selling him.”

He added on ultimately getting the race after the inquiry: “It doesn’t sit well with me, it’s not the way I like to play sport.

“But that’s the rules, and if the rules say that – I just feel sorry for the second, I thought it was a good battle and it’s a shame to see someone demoted.”

Paddy Brennan (left) and Davy Russell after the dead-heat was announced
Paddy Brennan (left) and Davy Russell after the dead-heat was announced (David Davies/PA)

Speaking before the verdict of the stewards, Elliott said: “Davy didn’t say much, he just said he hit the front too soon and if he had his time back he’d have taken his time more.

“He followed Mark (Walsh, on Brazil) as he thought he was the horse to beat. He went by him and then idled and pulled up in front. Davy is raging with himself, but that’s horseracing.

“I’ll take a dead-heat in a Grade One any day of the week. We’ve hit the crossbar a lot over the last two weeks.

“Both horses ran great races. Full credit to Milton Harris and his team – they’ve done a good job with their horse and our team did a great job with ours.

“A dead-heat is a fair result and I’m happy. This horse will go straight to (Royal) Ascot now.”

Pied Piper expected to call the tune at Aintree

Aintree’s flat contours are expected to bring out the best in Pied Piper in Thursday’s Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

A multiple winner on the Flat in the colours of the Queen, the son of New Approach was bought out of John and Thady Gosden’s yard for 225,000 guineas to pursue a jumping career with Gordon Elliott.

He made a smart beginning when beating Vauban at Punchestown and a subsequent demolition job on Cheltenham Trials Day meant he lined up as one of two leading contenders for owners Andrew and Gemma Brown in last month’s Triumph Hurdle, along with stablemate Fil Dor.

There was only a neck between the pair at the Festival, with Fil Dor second and Pied Piper third behind Vauban, and connections believe Pied Piper could be seen in an even better light on Merseyside.

Joey Logan, racing manager for the owners, said: “We think the ground is going to suit him and the track is going to suit him – I think we’ll see the best of Pied Piper on Thursday.

“He’s in good form – he came out of Cheltenham very well. Davy (Russell) is going to ride him and we’d be expecting him to run a big race.

“This was the target more than the Triumph Hurdle because of the track, but we had to run both horses in the Triumph.

“Fil Dor is a big chaser in the making and will go to Punchestown. Hopefully Pied Piper might go for one of the big staying Flat races at Royal Ascot or somewhere after Thursday.”

Brazil and Mark Walsh on their way to Cheltenham Festival glory
Brazil and Mark Walsh on their way to Cheltenham Festival glory (Nigel French/PA)

The biggest danger to Pied Piper appears to be Brazil, who provided trainer Padraig Roche with a first Cheltenham success in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Roche is looking forward to testing the JP McManus-owned gelding at Grade One level for the first time.

Roche said: “He seems healthy and well and he gave us an unbelievable day in Cheltenham, in fairness. We’re looking forward to running him again.

“He came out of Cheltenham great and in good form and the ground should be lovely.”

Petit Tonnerre is a second interesting runner for McManus, having added to his two wins in France when making a successful debut for Jonjo O’Neill at Market Rasen in February.

The Venetia Williams-trained Fautinette, the only filly in the field, won each of her three starts across the Channel and is thrown in at the deep end on first start in Britain.

“She is a gorgeous little mare,” said co-owner Andy Edwards.

“She is not a novice, and fillies’ handicaps are slightly few and far between at this time of year. We thought about a fillies’ juvenile handicap at Cheltenham, on April 14, but she is working so nicely.

“She is a very good filly and deserves to take her chance in this. First time out in a Grade One is a very big ask, no question. But we are really looking forward to seeing her run.

“Her fitness levels are unknown, but the track is ideal and the ground is ideal.”

Knight Salute (right) has enjoyed a fine season
Knight Salute (right) has enjoyed a fine season (David Davies/PA)

Knight Salute won his first five races over hurdles for Milton Harris but could finish only ninth in the Triumph Hurdle three weeks ago, with his trainer blaming underfoot conditions.

“That was down to the ground. Paddy (Brennan) looked after him and at home he seems right as rain,” said Harris.

“We took the hood off and he had been running with earplugs in and we have chucked those out. I think I would expect to see a different horse, the old horse back firing.

“It is a competitive race but he is 14-1 and that is a crazy price, just crazy.”

Gary Moore’s dual winner In The Air, the Dan Skelton-trained Too Friendly, Nicky Henderson’s Impulsive One and Inca Prince from Ruth Jefferson’s yard complete the field.

Pied Piper and Fil Dor in top form for Vauban showdown

Fil Dor and Pied Piper give trainer Gordon Elliott a formidable hand in his bid for a third victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

It is eight years since the Cullentra handler first landed the juvenile championship with the great Tiger Roll and he doubled his tally with Farclas in 2018.

This year’s two challengers both carry Andrew and Gemma Brown’s Caldwell Construction colours – and both line up with strong claims.

Joey Logan, racing manager to the owners, said: “It’s very exciting to have the two of them running in the Triumph Hurdle, obviously.”

Pied Piper was bred by the Queen and initially trained on the Flat by John Gosden before changing hands in the autumn.

On his hurdling debut at Punchestown, he narrowly defeated the Willie Mullins-trained Vauban before registering a runaway victory in a Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham in late January.

Fil Dor has also locked horns with Vauban already, with the Mullins runner ending his three-race winning streak at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival.

The trio will again do battle in Friday’s opener and Logan has high hopes for the Caldwell pair.

Fil Dor at Leopardstown
Fil Dor at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

“Willie is talking up his horse a lot, which you have to respect, but I think the course on Friday is going to suit Fil Dor fantastically well,” he added.

“He worked in Leopardstown last week and worked very well under Davy (Russell).

“Pied Piper has won over the course and distance and also seems in great nick, so it’s hard to split them to be honest.

“Everyone is saying Willie’s horse has improved, but I know for a fact Pied Piper has improved phenomenally since that run (when he beat Vauban).

“I think it’s going to be a very good race and I’m expecting a big run from both of our horses.”

Vauban won twice on the Flat in France before joining Mullins’ stable last year.

He was odds-on for his Irish debut when touched off by Pied Piper, but readily accounted for Fil Dor in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle.

“He did everything right the last day. He jumps well and everything has gone well since, so he’s going to be a major player,” Mullins said.

“He obviously met a good one the first day.”

The Closutton handler also saddles Icare Allen and Il Etait Temps, both of whom finished behind Vauban at Leopardstown in early February, although Icare Allen has won since.

Knight Salute (right) on his way to victory at Cheltenham
Knight Salute (right) on his way to victory at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Among the leading hopes for the home team is the Milton Harris-trained Knight Salute, who is five from five since being sent hurdling, including a Cheltenham victory in November.

Harris said: “He’s in a good place and worked well last Saturday, so we’re looking forward to it.

“The Irish are either too good for us or they’re not as good as they think they are. There doesn’t seem to be much between them, so we’ll see.

“Our horse is very adaptable and if he goes there, he goes there as a contender. Win, lose or draw he’s had a great season, but this would obviously be the icing on the cake.

“We’re under no illusions, it’s not going to be easy, but I don’t think he’ll make it easy for the others either.

But he cautioned: “We will keep our eye on the ground, though, after Wednesday’s rain. I am of the view that he is a better horse on better ground.

“We will have a chat with the owner after racing on Thursday. The ground could end up being quite sticky if it starts to dry up.”

Dan Skelton’s Doctor Parnassus, another ex-Flat performer, has won by 10 lengths at Ascot and nine at Taunton since being sent hurdling.

“He’s a half-brother to Metier and we all know what he’s done over hurdles,” said Skelton.

“This horse won at Ascot and we then ran him over two miles and three (furlongs) at Taunton deliberately, as you can’t be frightened of stamina if you’re going to run in a Triumph Hurdle.

“I was stood down at the last that day and I was amazed by how well he picked up and powered through the line.

“He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he’s a grafter and I think you need a grafter for a Triumph.”

Gary Moore runs the high-class Grade One winner Porticello and the maiden Teddy Blue, who was runner-up to Knight Salute in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton three weeks ago.

Vauban among Triumph Hurdle dozen

Ante-post favourite Vauban heads 12 declarations for Friday’s JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Trained by Willie Mullins, Vauban finished second to the reopposing Pied Piper on his racecourse bow before stepping up on that to win a Grade One at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.

Fil Dor was back in second that day and he is in opposition again as one of two runners for Gordon Elliott along with the aforementioned Pied Piper.

That one was a Cheltenham winner on Trials Day in January.

Mullins also fields Icare Allen and Il Etait Temps, with Ages Of Man for Anthony McCann and Noel Meade’s Lunar Power completing a strong Irish challenge.

Gary Moore’s Porticello heads the home defence and he also fields Teddy Blue in the two-mile Grade One, with Knight Salute aiming to extend his winning streak to six as he lines up for Milton Harris.

Dan Skelton’s Doctor Parnassus and the David Pipe-trained Koi Dodville are the other contenders.

Ginto is one of the Albert Bartlett favourites
Ginto is one of the Albert Bartlett favourites (Donall Farmer/PA)

The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle has drawn 19 contenders, with Elliott’s Ginto leading the way after winning each of his three hurdles starts.

The trainer also fields Where It All Began while Mullins has four runners in Classic Getaway, Minella Cocooner, Ramillies and The Nice Guy.

Hillcrest is the leading British hope for Henry Daly following his recent Haydock success with Archie Watson’s Stag Horn and the Dermot Weld-trained Falcon Eight other eyecatching names in the line up.

Pied Piper calls the tune for Elliott at Cheltenham

Pied Piper strengthened Gordon Elliott’s formidable hand in the juvenile division with a hugely impressive victory in the JCB Triumph Trial at Cheltenham.

Carrying the same colours as Fil Dor, who will put his unbeaten record on the line at Leopardstown next weekend, Pied Piper was the 11-8 favourite to claim Grade Two honours following a narrow victory on his hurdling debut at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve.

A dual winner on the Flat for John Gosden and the Queen, the son of New Approach appeared to have plenty on his plate with Kempton scorer Iceo and course and distance winner Interne De Sivola among his rivals.

But after being settled at the rear for much of the way, Pied Piper cruised into contention before easing clear under a motionless Davy Russell to score by nine lengths – to take over from Fil Dor as Triumph Hurdle favourite, although that might not be his ultimate destination.

“He was immature the last day and we always thought he’d improve from Punchestown and he has, he’s a lovely horse. There’s loads of options, there’s a lot of festivals ahead of us,” said Russell. “It’s always good to ride a winner Cheltenham.”

Paddy Power and Betfair make Pied Piper their 5-2 market leader for March from 9-1, while easing Fil Dor to 4-1 from 3-1.

Intriguingly, however, Elliott raised the possibility of splitting his aces, with Pied Piper having the option of taking on his elders in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

He said: “We came over to have a feel and see where we are. We thought he was a nice horse and we thought if he settled he’d be able to close.

“He probably surprised us a little bit, but he’s always been nice to be fair. We bought him as a horse to mix it over hurdles and on the Flat.

“We might split them up or we might run the two of them in the Triumph, you never know. They’re both in the Supreme, but this would be a speedier horse and the Friday track in the Triumph might suit Fil Dor better. If one of them was to go for the Supreme Novices’, I’d say it would be this lad.

“There’s always Aintree and there are plenty of races at home.”

Imperial Alcazar and Paddy Brennan
Imperial Alcazar and Paddy Brennan (David Davies/PA)

Imperial Alcazar brought up local trainer Fergal O’Brien’s century for the season with a wide-margin success in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase.

The eight-year-old disappointed when fancied for the Pertemps Final last year and had to make do with the runner-up spot on his first two starts over fences at Newbury and Chepstow.

But ridden by stable jockey Paddy Brennan, the 9-1 shot could be called the winner a long way from home, with a spring-heeled leap at the final fence sealing his 10-length victory.

O’Brien said: “It’s great to get the hundred and it’s great to get it for Imperial Racing (owners), who have been with me from day one and have been great supporters.

“Last season it took us a long time to get there. We were in the nervous 90s for a while and it was almost a relief when we did it, rather than a joy.

“To get my 100th winner here, with a good bit of the season still ahead of us, is phenomenal.

“I’m very lucky to be surrounded by great people.”

Of Imperial Alcazar, he added: “He has always been a very good horse. He got a nick at the Festival last year and we were lucky he didn’t do more damage.

“I was nervous coming up the hill today as he weakened quite badly at Chepstow last time. Maybe the horses weren’t quite right at the time or something, but he did the job today, which is great.

“He’ll come back here for one of the handicaps at the Festival.”

Torn And Frayed leads the way
Torn And Frayed leads the way (David Davies/PA)

O’Brien spent several years as assistant to Nigel Twiston-Davies, who got his name on the winner’s board with Torn And Frayed in the £100,000 Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase.

Ridden by the trainer’s son, Sam, the 5-1 joint-favourite bounced back from being pulled up at Haydock with a six-length verdict over Galahad Quest, who pipped Spiritofthegames to second.

“He was very impressive. He got stuck in the mud at Haydock, so we brought him back on this better ground and we did think he had a very good chance,” said Twiston-Davies senior.

“The whole of my career has been based on running novices in big handicaps and it seems to work – thankyou Mr Handicapper!

“We’ll certainly look at coming back here for the Festival and then we could possibly look at at the Topham (over the Grand National fences at Aintree). He jumps like a bunny, so why not?”

All smiles for connections of Mullenbeg
All smiles for connections of Mullenbeg (Ashley Iveson/PA)

Mullenbeg was an easy winner of the Listed Alan Swinbank Mares’ National Hunt Flat Race for Mitchell Bastyan and Milton Harris.

The race is ordinarily run at Market Rasen but frost caused the Lincolnshire track to abandon their meeting last Friday and Cheltenham instead became the 2022 host of the contest.

Starting at 8-1 in a field of 11, Mullenbeg built on a prior bumper success at Ludlow earlier in the month and had no trouble in pulling away from her rivals and galloping to a five-and-a-half-length success.

“It’s hard enough to get here, never mind win races,” said Harris.

“That’s the boy’s (Bastyan) claim ridden out, he’s worked hard and I’m pleased for him. They work hard these kids.

“She’s decent, at home she’d be OK, nothing fancy, but she’s a racehorse, isn’t she?

“She was impressive, you don’t how good Willies’ (Mullins, Nos Na Gaoithe) was and the rest of them but you can only win, can’t you?

“The obvious race we’re working backwards from is the Aintree bumper, with the mares’ allowance we might look at the Cheltenham bumper but the reality is likely to be the Aintree bumper.”

Pied Piper looks one to follow after Punchestown success

Gordon Elliott looks to have another smart juvenile on his hands in the shape of Pied Piper following his winning debut at Punchestown.

Elliott already houses the Triumph Hurdle favourite in Fil Dor and sporting the same red and white Caldwell Construction Ltd silks, the former John and Thady Gosden inmate showed he is also likely to be a force to be reckoned with.

Up against the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Vauban, the two had it between them from some way out in the Join Tote.ie 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle.

Owned by the Queen on the Flat, Pied Piper was sold for 225,000 guineas and always appeared to be travelling better than the market leader, who to his credit closed all the way to the line to only be beaten half a length, with the pair 15 clear of the remainder.

Betfair and Paddy Power introduced the winner into the Triumph betting at 14-1.

“He’s a nice horse and I think there is an awful amount of improvement in him. I couldn’t see him winning today and he hasn’t even been away from home,” said Elliott.

“He jumped well and probably travelled a bit too well early. He loved the ground and is one to look forward to. He’s a big baby.”

Elliott doubled up with Harmonya Maker in the closing bumper, with the filly getting a 16-1 quote from Paddy Power for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

“She’s a nice mare and one for the future. She might be one for Leopardstown or Fairyhouse, we have those options and she could be one to run in a graded hurdle and then put away for next year,” said Elliott.

There was a pleasing return to form for Gavin Cromwell’s Darver Star (6-1) who was a wide-margin winner of the Tote+ Pays You More On Tote.ie Hurdle.

Yet again Mullins provided the odds-on favourite in Cilaos Emery, but two and a half miles in testing ground sapped his stamina and he stopped very quickly in the home straight.

Darver Star, third in Epatante’s Champion Hurdle, looked much happier back over hurdles having struggled over fences of late and he coasted home 20 lengths clear of the remainder for Keith Donoghue.

“He just grew in confidence as the race developed. The further he went the better his jumping got,” said Cromwell.

“The ability was always there and his work was great at home. Maybe we shouldn’t have stayed chasing as long as we did.

“I put blinkers on him and schooled him because we had him in the Paddy Power and he jumped brilliant. Then a horse fell in front of him and he got mowed out of it. Thankfully Keith (Donoghue) had the sense to pull him up.

“The Galmoy Hurdle might be a possibility and if not the Boyne Hurdle.

“I’m delighted for the boys as it’s been a frustrating 18 months.”

Mullins also had an odds-on loser in the opening Tote.ie Home Of The Placepot Beginners Chase but this time he also saddled the impressive winner in En Beton (10-1).

An all-the-way winner for King George hero Danny Mullins, he appeared to have the measure of stablemate Egality Mans when he came down two out.

His jockey said: “That was a good performance, he jumped great. For a first time over fences he was taking lengths out of the field which allowed me to just keep filling him up.

“He gave a blow after the line, but hopefully he’ll step up from that. You would think looking at him he would always be a chaser and from what he showed there it looks like it is going to be his game.”

Martin Brassil’s An Epic Song landed a fair touch being backed from as big as 14-1 overnight into 2-1 favourite in the Tote Supporting Punchestown Handicap Hurdle.

“He’s a horse with a bit of a future we hope, a big fine chaser,” said Brassil.