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Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Class 2)
The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle is a handicap for conditional jockeys. The mount of each rider must negotiate nine hurdles over the two mile four furlong trip.
The race was named after the legendary Martin Pipe, who was Champion Trainer 15 times and won 34 races at the Cheltenham Festival during his lengthy career.
A five year old on the upgrade, our tip for the 2017 Conditionals Handicap Hurdle is Nick Williams’ Coo Star Sivola, who finished third in the 2016 Fred Winter Hurdle. He posted a brilliant effort over course and distance three starts ago when winning a Listed race, seeing off horses rated 135 and 133 despite hanging to the right after the last.
He was highly tried following that win, struggling home in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle here, but got back on track when taking a weak novice race in eye catching fashion at Warwick last month. The drying ground will suit as his third place Festival finish was on Good ground, while his Cheltenham form on Good to Soft and better reads second, third, first. The handicapper has raised him just four pounds for that novice win thanks to the weak company, and he is just six pounds higher than when third in the Fred Winter. Lizzie Kelly, who has been booked to ride, was fifth on a 33/1 outsider on Wednesday and has already won multiple Graded races in her career. She boasts a 14% strike rate at Cheltenham and an £11.50 profit to £1 stakes from her 21 rides.
With both course and distance and Cheltenham Festival form, a leading jockey booked and a potentially lenient handicap mark, he looks to provide excellent value in a competitive race.
The Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle has only been run eight times; here are the key betting trends:
- All 8 winners were aged either 5 or 6 years old
- 7 of the 8 winners were in their 2nd hurdling season
- 7 of the 8 winners had either 1 or 2 previous wins over hurdles (Attaglance, the exception, had 4 wins)
- 6 of the 8 winners were priced at 12/1 or bigger
- 5 of the 8 winners placed last start before the Conditionals’ Handicap Hurdle with 4 winning
Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls are the only trainers to have won this race multiple times, with Willie the leading trainer with three victories since the race debuted in 2009. Leading GB trainer Nicky Henderson has won this race previously, while the nature of the race means no jockey has won more than one title.
Posting a career best on his latest start at Warwick, Coo Star Sivola is a five year old on the upgrade for Nick Williams. Third in the 2016 Fred Winter Hurdle, he ran a brilliant race three starts ago over C&D when comfortably beating Report To Base and Poetic Rhythm, proving his stamina. Clearly not at his best when beaten in Grade 2 company over C&D, weakening rapidly on the run in, he made amends for that when romping home at Warwick in February. He made all in a brilliant display of jumping, forging clear from the sixth and was twenty-five lengths clear when the crossed the second from home, winning by nearly forty lengths at the line. What he beat that day is up for debate, but it was quite the taking performance and he’s an improving sort for a yard who had their first Festival winner yesterday with Flying Tiger. A mark of 138 could see him well treated as he was only six pound higher than when third in the Fred Winter and he’s clearly improved since that run. He has Lizzie Kelly on board which is a great booking and he has to be respected with conditions to suit.
Philip Hobbs’ yard has hit form at the perfect time and No Comment has a good chance of extending this good spell with a Festival winner. A lightly raced six year old, he has won his last three starts over timber, albeit in novice company. On his latest start he won at Plumpton in January when comfortably beating Minella Awards and that form has been franked to quite the degree when that rival came out and won a Grade 3 at Sandown on Saturday off a mark of 128. Hobbs’ horse starts off in handicaps off a mark of 137 but he was giving Minella Awards 10lb on their meeting and he could be well treated on this mark if improving again. He has conditions to suit and Ciaran Gethings is a good jockey booking, so he has to be respected as any amount of progress will see him right in the firing line in this.
A steady improver over timber, Runfordave ran a big race to finish third in a Grade 2 behind Any Second Now at Punchestown in January. That was a career best effort and he looks to have scope for further progress, especially when upped to this sort of trip. Gordon Elliott has said many times in the past that he looks a ‘smart’ horse and, as only a five-year-old, he remains with plenty of potential for improvement. He is also ground versatile and the Cheltenham hill is likely to suit him as it will call stamina into question. A best priced 25/1 certainly looks generous if he were to aim for this race, though no clues have been given thus far.
It’s not been easy to follow Battleford over timber but he remains well handicapped on his bumper form and surely better can be expected of him in time. Second in the 2016 Champion Bumper behind Ballyandy, he’s been struggling to get his act together over obstacles, with his jumping the main source of his issues. He gained his first win over hurdles at Leopardstown in December at the second attempt, albeit in a weakish looking race. He was again turned over at short odds when beaten at Thurles in January, though in hindsight there was no disgrace in beating beaten by The Storyteller. He was far from disgraced again in Grade 3 company last time out at Clonmel, four lengths behind Monalee, but again making multiple mistakes. He is unlikely to get away with those in such a big field but if he were to jump with fluency he’d surely have a chance off a mark of 135 based upon his bumper exploits. Possible each way claims but his jumping is still of concern.
The fourth renewal of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle, held in 2012, saw the closest finish in the history of the race. A total of 24 runners set off for the trip and just under half had realistic chances when going down to the last.
Toner D’Oudairies took the final obstacle over a length clear, though allowed Attaglance to get his nose in front just prior to the line sealing the neck victory, Oscar Nominee just another neck away in third.