Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle Tips: Mullins to strike in finale

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle: Willie Mullins is fancied to train the winner of the finale.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle: Willie Mullins is fancied to train the winner of the finale.

Lewis Tomlinson offers his Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle tip for a race that concludes the 2021 Cheltenham Festival...

Lewis Tomlinson's Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle Tip

Gentleman De Mee at 11/2 with William Hill

Introduced in 2009, the Martin Pipe now draws the Cheltenham Festival to a close, but, perhaps more than any other Festival handicap, acts as springboard for young talent, both human and equine. The likes of Harry Skelton, Aidan Coleman and Paul Townend all rode in the inaugural race twelve years ago, whilst several future top-class performers, including Sir Des Champs, Don Poli and Killultagh Vic all won the Martin Pipe in the early stages of their career.

Novices again dominate the top end of the market, with five of the six horses priced at 12-1 or shorter all in their first season over hurdles.

The favourite, Gentleman De Mee has the archetypal profile of a horse who could potentially be much better than a handicapper, and his place at the top of the betting is fully justified.

A product of the Guillaime Macaire talent factory, Gentleman De Mee cost his fearsome new connections €280,000 in November 2019 after finishing runner-up in two French juvenile hurdles at the beginning of last season. Trainer Willie Mullins had stated that a setback had kept Gentleman De Mee off the track for the early part of this campaign, though confidence was clearly behind him on Irish debut, defying over a year off the track to land the odds of 2-7 in a Naas maiden hurdle.

That was a very tidy showing, with Gentleman De Mee responding to Mark Walsh’s urgings whilst always looking within his comfort zone. He’s clearly still a work in progress, but appears to have natural talent in abundance and his opening mark of 139 could prove to look very lenient in time. The sky could be the limit for this lad, and he should take all the beating.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

His main market rival, Langer Dan, is chasing a £50,000 bonus after winning the Imperial Cup on Saturday. He shaped well at Cheltenham on both of his appearances at the track as a juvenile, finishing runner-up to Botox Has in an early season juvenile event before running into sixth in the Fred Winter. He was impressive at Sandown a few days ago, and is officially 4lb well in under a penalty. A turnaround this quick for a race so competitive always provides a minor doubt, but the step back up in trip shouldn’t pose an issue, and the Skelton’s have a lot to gain by firing him out again quickly before his new mark takes effect.

It would be rather fitting if Langer Dan were to achieve the rare double in this particular  race; of the three horses to have managed the feat, two were trained by Martin Pipe, whilst the third and most recent, 2007 Fred Winter winner Gaspara, carried the colours of the great trainer.

Gabynako’s third behind Bob Olinger and Blue Lord now looks like strong form after that pair performed well in Grade 1 novice hurdles, and the step back up to two-and-a-half miles is a positive, as he couldn’t regain his position after making an early mistake in Leopardstown’s competitive Ladbrokes Hurdle last time out. He’s generally held his form well this season and a mark of 141 here could prove to be workable.

Galopin Des Champs also arrives here via the Dublin Racing Festival, where he outran his 100-1 odds to finish sixth in the Chanelle Pharma. I’m not too sure he finished ahead of anything special that day, but it was a step forward after a fairly underwhelming beginning to his career for Willie Mullins. Market confidence had been behind him on previous occasions, though, so the vibes may suggest those close to the horse feel he has more ability than what he has shown on the track yet.

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The Denise Foster yard runs three in the race, including novices Folcano and Frontal Assault. The former has steadily improved in maiden hurdles, getting off the mark at the fourth time of asking at Fairyhouse last month- though he was unlucky not to have won the start prior and Navan, and really should’ve been awarded the race in the stewards’ room.

Frontal Assault was a decent bumper performer over two miles last season, but staying is clearly his game and he was able to notch his first Graded victory when taking an admittedly weak Navan Grade 3 on his most recent outing.

Joseph O’Brien’s Fire Attack was also above average in bumpers last season and doesn’t look to be particularly harshly treated by an opening handicap mark of 138. O’Brien has also recently taken charge of Floueur, who shaped well back over hurdles last time after failing to take to fences. That pair both have the potential to achieve more, and neither can be discounted.

Pileon and Dallas Des Pictons have been the runners-up in the last two renewals of the race, and though neither have particularly built on their former Festival form. Pileon especially has proved a huge disappointment this campaign; he looked en route to bigger and bigger things after his narrow second in last season’s race, but he’s been utterly woeful over both fences and hurdles so far this campaign and has failed to beat a single rival home. Headgear is now reached for, and if it works, he’ll be a threat from a 2lb lower mark. Dallas Des Pictons hasn’t troubled the judge for a long time either, and he’ll race from a mark 7lbs higher than his current rating in Ireland.

One who catches the eye at a bigger price is the Nicky Henderson-trained Mill Green. He’s had very little racing for a nine-year-old, still with only thirteen runs to his name, but he stayed on well into sixth in this race last year. I think he’s shaped better than bare results have suggested on his two outings- in a jumpers’ bumper and a novice chase- this season, and I can see why Henderson has decided to revert to hurdles for this. He races here from the same mark as last season- only 6lb higher when winning at Sandown last February- and I think that gives him a chance to run a similar sort of race again this year, potentially being able to pick up pieces from the rear and make his way into the placings.

Fri 16:50 - Martin Pipe Hurdle
Gentleman De Mee silk

Gentleman De Mee

Cheltenham Gold Cup
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