MARTIN PIPE and Tony McCoy treated punters to a reminder of the good old days as the champions claimed long-odds trebles at Sandown Park yesterday.
Having left Pipe at the start of the season to join Jonjo O'Neill, and with Pipe's principal patron David Johnson taking on Timmy Murphy, opportunities for the pair to combine have been understandably scarce of late.
But with O'Neill's team laid low through sickness, Pipe was able to secure the services of the jockey for some of his sizeable team. They combined twice to great effect, most notably when McCoy took the valuable Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle aboard 141 chance Tamarinbleu to help give Pipe a boost in his bid for a remarkable 15th trainers' championship. His odds for that have been cut to 1-2 from 8-13 by Paddy Power.
And McCoy's three strikes on the day (at accumulative odds of 1,011-1) increased his lead in the jockeys' standings as he bids for a 10th title.
McCoy had struck first when leading home a stable one-two for Brighton trainer Gary Moore in the Ladbrokes Freephone 0808 1000 421 Juvenile Novices' Hurdle. He rode 8-1 chance Diego Cao, who got the better of 2-1 favourite Nation State . . . partnered by the trainer's son, Jamie - in a driving finish.
The champion was at it again in the following ladbrokesgames. com Mares' Only Handicap Hurdle on Pipe's Bongo Fury, who upstaged better-fancied stable companion La Lambertine. McCoy was always going sweetly aboard the wellbacked 13-2 winner and drew alongside Timmy Murphy at the final flight. Accelerating away on the run-in, Bongo Fury stayed on to score by two and a half lengths.
But it was in the A£100,000 Ladbroke Hurdle that he caused the biggest upset, foiling 22 rivals, including Pipe's apparent first string Escompteur, who finished down the field. Tamarinbleu hit the front approaching the second-last, quickly went clear and never really looked in danger, holding off Self Defense (14-1) by four lengths.
"He was very good, " said McCoy. "He travelled and he jumped well all the way. Obviously he was as fit as you like, coming from where he does.
"I popped in to see Mr Pipe on my way home from Exeter the other day and he said that I would be riding this horse.
That suited me because I always thought he was the type to improve this season.
Pipe, who had saddled six runners in the race, revealed that he had spotted Tamarinbleu as the winner some way from the finish. "He was at the back but I could see he was going well and at the third-last I said I thought he'd got it, " he smiled. "Obviously he goes well fresh and although he took some time to come to himself this season we decided to keep him for this race because it is a nice prize to win."
Murphy did have the pleasure of maintaining his excellent relationship with Marcel - the winner of nine of his 10 starts and the central leg of Pipe's 449-1 treble - as he ran out a brave winner of the ladbrokes. com Tolworth Hurdle. The gelding was always prominent in the Grade One contest, but looked to have a real race on his hands approaching the last when he moved alongside Chilling Place. However, Chilling Place pecked on landing and weakened into third, giving the Grade One race to 3-1 shot Marcel, who kept on to hold It's Just Harry by two lengths.