2020 Martin Pipe tips – Two tips for Festival’s final handicap

Early Doors (right) comes through to win the 2019 Martin Pipe.

Early Doors (right) comes through to win the 2019 Martin Pipe.

2020 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Tips

Jon Vine takes a look through the entries for this handicap hurdle on day four of the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his 2020 Martin Pipe tips on Friday 13th March.

First run back in 2009, the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle was moved to the final slot on Gold Cup day last year. During its brief history, this handicap hurdle for amateur riders has been dominated by the biggest trainers in the sport, with Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls winning eight of the eleven editions.

I’ve taken a look at the brief history of this handicap and picked out three key trends. I then cast my eye through the entries and came up with two 2020 Martin Pipe handicap tips.

Key Trends

  • Nine of the last ten winners weighted between 11-05 and 11-10
  • Nine of the last ten winners were aged either five or six
  • Eight of the last ten winners finished first, second or third on their last start

Plot Jobs

Ilikedwayurthinkin (8/1 Ladbrokes) earmarked himself as a handicapper to follow with a couple of impressive victories at the Galway Festival in the summer. On his two starts during the regular season, Gavin Cromwell’s charge has merely been nursed around, ensuring he will enter the Martin Pipe with an appealing rating of just 132. Ilikedwayurthinkin will certainly be a popular Cheltenham Festival tip, but I’d rather side with a horse who’s proven against higher-quality rivals for the Martin Pipe tips.

Another trainer who’s no stranger to a handicap plot is Dan Skelton, and he announced on ITV at the start of the year that Flash The Steel (16/1 Unibet) was being trained for the Martin Pipe. Skelton’s eight-year-old won a Grade Three Handicap at Chepstow back in October and boasts some useful form around the Cheltenham course.

Gordon Elliott Jack Kennedy Cheltenham

Gordon Elliott will point a few of his best hurdlers at the Martin Pipe.

Martin Pipe Tips – Tip One

Of all the races at the Cheltenham Festival, this handicap is one Gordon Elliott specifically targets. Named in honour of his old mentor, Elliott has saddled two of the previous three Martin Pipe winners, and looked on-course for a 1-2 last year, until Early Doors came through and passed both Dallas Des Pictons and Defi Bleu. It would be foolish to not feature a Gordon Elliott runner in the Martin Pipe as one of my Cheltenham Festival tips.

I picked out Conflated as a possible for the Martin Pipe back in January and he could be dropped in, having been well-beaten three times in Grade Ones. While he still offers plenty of appeal at a lengthy price, I think it’s clear that Elliott’s top-gun in this year’s Martin Pipe will be COLUMN OF FIRE, who is an 8/1 pick in the Cheltenham free bet offers.

After a difficult first season under rules, where he was switched back to bumpers after falling on his second hurdles start, Column Of Fire has impressed. Elliott’s charge placed behind Elixir D’ainey and Longhouse Poet, who’ve both proven themselves in Grade One company since, on his opening couple of starts. Column Of Fire then fell when looking the most likely winner in another maiden at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day.

Ellliott’s six-year-old bounced back with a bloodless triumph at Punchestown two weeks later, beating a mediocre field by 13-lengths. Column Of Fire then had his stamina tested over three miles ahead of his Cheltenham Festival debut, and only came up a length or so short of Treacyenniscorthy in a hugely competitive Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown.

Column Of Fire has really progressed and strengthened up as the season has gone on. Dropping back to 20-furlongs amidst the Martin Pipe tips won’t be a problem at all and a mark of 138 should see that Elliott’s six-year-old carries an extremely competitive weight. He’ll be the first of my Cheltenham Festival tips.

Joseph O'Brien Cheltenham Martin Pipe

Joseph O’Brien receives the Martin Pipe trophy from the legend himself in 2019.

Martin Pipe Tips – Tip Two

Downtown Getaway and McFabulous are horses I really like. I’ve tipped Eglantine Du Seuil for the Coral Cup, as you can see in my Coral Cup preview, so I’m hoping she shows up there. Dame De Compagnie could also end up in that day two handicap, but if Nicky Henderson was to drop his mare into the Martin Pipe, I’d be extremely tempted to take a punt on her.

While all four are worthy of a mention, FRONT VIEW (16/1 Ladbrokes) has caught my eye on a number of occasions this term. I think he has an excellent chance of helping Joseph O’Brien retain the Martin Pipe crown and he’ll be my second Cheltenham Festival tip at an each-way price.

The winner of a competitive bumper at the Punchestown Festival, Front View followed the Ballymore novices hurdle banker, Envoi Allen home on his first start over hurdles. A maiden victory followed at Cork, where O’Brien’s charge defeated stablemate Uhtred, who bolted up in a bumper on his very next start.

Front View then entered his first Graded race at Thurles earlier this month. Mark Walsh’s mount, who usually likes to be ridden prominently, was hampered at the first and had to settle down out the back. A couple of mistakes followed as Front View tried to get into contention late on, but O’Brien’s charge finished off the race strongly to eventually finish second to Five O’Clock.

Given a clear round of jumping, I think Front View would probably have won that Grade Three. Despite losing, he still showed improvement over that extended 21-furlong trip and I think he’s one of the best value Martin Pipe tips sitting on his current price of 16/1.


Cracking Smart features prominently in the betting. Yet, after winning the Boyne Hurdle, Elliott’s charge has risen to a mark of 153 – far beyond the 145-ceiling for the Martin Pipe. A rating like that would be enough to get earn Cracking Smart a spot in a race like the Champion Hurdle. Check out Daryl Carter’s video tip for the Champion Hurdle here….