Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle - Gold Cup Day

race6The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle is the penultimate race of the entire Cheltenham Festival. By the time this comes around the Gold Cup has been run and everything is starting to wind down. If history tells us anything it’s that you’ll have been witness to another brilliant year, filled with excitement, laughter and hopefully some winnings.

The race is named after Martin Pipe, a trainer who won thirty-four times at the Cheltenham Festival and was named Champion Trainer fifteen times in his National Hunt career. He retired in 2006 and this race was formed in his honour three years later. As it’s named after a specific person, the race has not had a sponsor to date.

Race Facts

NameFencesDistanceWinner / PurseGrade
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle 9 2m, 4f, 56y £40,664 / £65,000 Class 2 Hurdle

Run over two miles and four and a half furlongs, this class 2 hansicap race is for four-year-olds and over. Taking place on the New Course, the left-handed race features nine different hurdles that must be negotiated. It’s a handicap race, meaning that there are no weight restrictions in place for the horses that enter it. Instead they’re all given different weights to carry depending on their ability, age and other factors.

The more astute amongst you will have spotted the words 'conditional jockeys' in the race’s title. This means the race is only open to apprentice jockeys under 26 who haven’t won over seventy-five times under rules.

The 2017 running of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle was won by Champagne Classic, ridden by James Slevin. The horse was trained by Gordon Elliott, winning the race for the first time as a trainer. The winning pot for that year’s race was £65,000 and the winner took a £40,664 share of it.

Race Trivia

Because handicapped races are often quite open affairs, it’s no major surprise to discover that no horse has won it more than once during its previous nine runnings. Equally, because the race is only open to conditional jockeys, therefore suggestive of the fact that once they’ve won it they’re likely to be more successful over the coming year, no jockey has ever won it more than once either.

The same restrictions are not in place for trainers, however. In fact, only six trainers have won this race during its nine year existence up until this point. The inaugural running of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle was won by Nicky Henderson, with Emma Lavelle winning it the following year. Willie Mullins won it for the first time in 2011 before Malcolm Jefferson trained the winning horse the year after. Paul Nicholls has won it twice, first in 2013 then again in 2016, and you already know about Gordon Elliott’s win in 2017. That leaves 2014 and 2015 unaccounted for, when Mullins won it for the second and third time in his career to set the record for this race.

The jockeys aren’t the only ones who use this race to gain a bit of much needed experience. Some of the horses that win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle then go on to compete in bigger and more prestigious races at the Festival. For example, the 2011 winner Sir Des Champs went on to win the Golden Miller Novices' Chase the following year. He also won the Hennessy Gold Cup in Ireland and the Punchestown Gold Cup in 2013. Likewise, the 2014 winner Don Poli won the RSA Chase at the Festival in 2015.

CBO Rating 5/10

With just two races remaining of the entire Festival week, it isn’t outrageous to suggest that some punters will be drifting off by the time the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle is getting ready to be run. The Gold Cup dominates proceedings in the same way as the Grand National does at Aintree, so the races that come after it have to offer something pretty special to retain interest. This race does that by giving people a glimpse into the potential of future jockeys, with the fact that some of the horses have also gone on to win big things doing the race no harm whatsoever.

If you’re looking for a horse to bet on then it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for any lining up that have been trained by Willie Mullins. The Irishman has set all sorts of records at the Cheltenham Festival over the years, so you’d be right in thinking he knows what he’s talking about regardless of the race you’re watching. Yet his success in this race means horses that he’s trained will surely have something of an edge.

Conclusion

Jockeys that are learning their way in the industry, horses that have the talent and temperament to go on to bigger and better things and a handicapping system that means the race is about as open as a field can be. What’s not to love about the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle?