Martin Pipe

Brady's horseplay

Monaghan trainer and general all round legend, Oliver Brady, sponsored a suitably rambunctious Cheltenham preview night in Castleblaney this week. Brady, who has overcome many serious illnesses, knows how to enjoy a good day out and his post-race celebrations have brightened up many a morbid parade ring. Chairing the preview was the equally cheerful Matt Chapman of ATR and there was uproar when he was introduced special guest. Chapman has been playfully mocking Brady's ambitions for his horse, Pablo, so Oliver brought the horse along to the hotel to face his accuser. If Brady's big hope Ebadiyan wins the Triumph hurdle, the celebrations may never end. A nation crosses its fingers.

Shark attack

If the countdown to Cheltenham needed a musical score then the theme from Jaws would work perfectly. With only a week and a half to go each day dawns with an unseen fear that something unexpectedly nasty could happen to the any of the main characters and cause them to miss their big day out. This week the shark took a bite from Hurricane Fly, Pandorama and Hebridean among others. The biggest loss is Hurricane Fly who has been stalled with a well-publicised splint problem, although thankfully escaped the water with all his limbs intact and horse should be fine for Punchestown.

Soup of the day

The Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, Simon Claisse, continues to grapple with his 'Goldilocks Conundrum.' With recent improvements in the weather comes a growing anxiety that the ground could ride too fast at the festival, so he agonisingly decided to begin watering the course this week. And then he changed their mind again when the Weather Men discovered a couple of unexpected rain clouds en route to the course. It's a bit like the three bowls of porridge in the bear's house. One is too firm, one is too heavy and one is just perfect. Let's hope Claisse can find the right bowl.

All in the family

One advantage of an expanded festival is that new races bring opportunities to honour some of the more recent stalwarts of Cheltenham. Two of them have a distinctive familial twist. The Conditional Jockey's Handicap Hurdle is named for Martin Pipe (above) and has attracted a huge entry of 216, with no less than
twenty-three of them trained by Martin's son, David. The 'Freddie Williams' Festival Plate, a handicap chase over two mile five, remembers the recently deceased Scottish bookie. Williams was one of the few who would look JP McManus in the eye without blinking and his famous pitch will be taken over by his daughter, Julie.