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4:50pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m4½f

Harry Fry's Melrose Boy secured a course-and-distance victory earlier in the season and offer plenty of each-way value. As does Philip Hobbs Springtown Lake, who finished second to On The Blind Side in a Grade Two and performed well enough in a Listed race here at Cheltenham to suggest he has potential. However, the Martin Pipe is usualy won by a horse from - no disrespect intended - a top yard, so it's hard to look past some of the leading candidates at the top of the market.

A victory in the Martin Pipe was what Gordon Elliott wanted most out of last year’s Festival and Champagne Classic delivered. Last year's Top Trainer would dearly love to lift the trophy bearing the name of his former mentor once again and FLAWLESS ESCAPE could be the one to seal victory in 2018.

After claiming a strong victory on his stable debut in a flat race, the five-year-old won one of his two starts in two-and-a-half mile maidens. Flawless Escape carried a narrow victory over some strong competition into the Dublin Racing Festival, where he came up againt Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall. Willie Mullins’ Gold Cup contender was too strong over that three mile trip, but Flawless Escape performed well to hold on to third.
Elliott’s charge has been pushed into favouritism for the Martin Pipe and it’s very hard to ignore Flawless Escape's sizeable claims. He ticks every box.

The Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (4:40pm) is a relatively new addition to the Cheltenham Festival run over 2 miles and about 4½ furlongs. The total prize fund in 2017 is £50,000 and the race will be run on Friday, March 17.

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Conditionals Hurdle Facts

Cheltenham’s Director of Racing, Simon Claisse, said: "We have long held the view that a race for the potential champion jockeys of the future would be a great addition to the Festival and a handicap for Conditional Jockeys was one of the races that was under close consideration when we first extended the meeting to four days.

"This will also be an opportunity for some of the large number of horses which are eliminated from the Coral Cup each year to have a run at the Festival."

Conditionals Hurdle Winners & Results

2017        Champagne Classic 12/1
2016        Ibis du Rheu
2015        Killultagh Vic
2014        Don Poli
2013 Salubrious
2012 Attaglance
2011 Sir Des Champs
2010 Pause And Clause
2009 Andytown

2012 Martin Pipe Hurdle Review

Despite throwing several arrows at the race, David Pipe again failed to win the race named in honour of his father, although it's surely a question of time before he does – Arab League did best of his four runners in tenth this time round.

The race went to Irish raider ATTAGLANCE, who was also helping to fill bookmaker satchels, having been sent off at 20/1. Still, there was no fluke about his victory over the better fancied Toner D'Oudairies (7/1), and he went on to follow-up at the Aintree Festival.

As you'd expect for such a tight-knit handicap, there was a close finish with just a neck separating the first two home, with another neck back to the third horse, Oscar Nominee (10/1). The Charlie Swan-trained came home in fourth to reward his each-way backers. 

The disappointment of the race was Bourne (9/2f), with the Donald McCain-trained runner coming home a never nearer ninth.

2011 Martin Pipe Hurdle Review

Sir Des Champs swept late on Son Of Flicka to win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.

Emmet Mullins gave the winner a fantastic ride and the well-backed 9-2 favourite landed another win for Willie Mullins and owner Michael O'Leary.  Son Of Flicka (28-1) looked the likely winner jumping the last but he had to settle for second with First Point (20-1) back in third.  Indian Daudaie was fourth at 25-1.

2010 Martin Pipe Hurdle Review

With the weather worsening all the time, conditions were officially soft on the hurdles course by the time the Martin Pipe Hurdle was run.

Surprisingly, David Pipe had only one runner in the race named after his father and, with Ashkazar only able to finish seventh, training honours went to Nicky Henderson, who saddled three of the first five.

However, it was Emma Lavelle's PAUSE AND CLAUSE, third in last season's Coral Cup, who took first prize with an ultimately convincing win on ground he clearly loves. He also seemed suited by dropping back in trip slightly, and a career over fences surely awaits next season as he is a lovely, big chasing type.

Amazingly, Pause For Clause was the ninth winner of the meeting to have won or been placed at a previous Festival.

Radium, in second, did best of the Henderson horses. He looked the likely winner at the last, but was outstayed on the run in and the rain that fell in the hours leading up to the race probably cost him dear. He's lightly raced and should improve further.

Clover Island stayed on well at the death to claim third. He has been running well in competitive handicaps all season and, given the way he finished here, may be worth a try over further.

Peveril, in fourth, is probably the one to take from the race as he looks set to make a smashing chaser next season. He ran well here under a big weight on ground that was probably soft enough for him. He'll stay three miles in time.

Lord Generous, who was having his first start for Henderson, did well to claim fifth over what is probably an inadequate trip for him, whilst On Borrowed Wings was possibly the hard luck story of the race as he was badly hampered at the fifth and did well to finish as close as he did in eighth.

Meath All Star is another one to keep an eye on as he was given far too much to do on ground that probably doesn't bring out the best in him.

2009 Martin Pipe Hurdle Review

The first running of the race for conditional jockeys named in honour of Martin Pipe fell to another legendary trainer, Nicky Henderson, as ANDYTOWN bounded clear up the hill for a comfortable success.

He had previously been an easy winner of a similar contest at the November Open meeting, and so clearly relishes this track. A hike in the weights looks sure to follow, so he may struggle to win as easily again in the near future.

The winner was chased home by a 100-1 shot Midnight Chase. He clearly enjoys a decent surface and looks scopey enough to make an impression over fences in time.

Big Earned Fran was favourite for the contest following a fine win in the EBF Final at Sandown on Saturday. His exertions in that race must have taken some sort of toll and so this was another fine effort. He got tired in the closing stages having looked the likely winner turning for home. He finished best of the seven runners David Pipe threw at the contest in an effort to win his father’s race.

Font won the Jewson Final here in the autumn, but has struggled since. Freshened up for this contest, he stayed the trip well on a course that clearly suits him. He also shows all his best form on decent ground.

Previous course form seemed to be the order of the day here as Presenting Copper, who won at the January meeting, was fifth and Oscatello, winner of the 2007 Coral Cup, was eighth.

Sandwiched in between was Leamington Lad, who ran well for a long way considering he had been turned out 72 hours earlier in the Supreme Novices’.

Martin Pipe

It was announced in January 2009 that this race would be named in honour of Martin Pipe, the most successful National Hunt trainer of all time. Pipe trained 34 winners at the Festival, including the Champion Hurdle twice, with Granville Again (1993) and Make A Stand (1997), though victory in the Gold Cup eluded him (Rushing Wild came second in 1993).

Cheltenham's Managing Director, Edward Gillespie, said: "Martin Pipe is, quite simply, a legend. From humble beginnings he re-wrote both the record books and the racehorse training manual.

"His thirst for knowledge and appetite for innovation produced spectacular results over his 32-year training career. His exploits at Cheltenham, particularly at The Festival and November's Open Meeting were stunning and I'm delighted that his name will sit alongside other great trainers at The Festival."

Pipe added: "This is a huge honour. Cheltenham has always been my favourite course and most of the best moments of my career were there. To be celebrated at The Festival alongside the likes of Vincent O'Brien, Fulke Walwyn, Fred Winter and David Nicholson is an amazing accolade, not only for me, but for all of my family and the magnificent team of people who made Pond House tick for 32 years."

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