David Pipe has rated JCB Triumph Hurdle contender Adagio as his strongest chance for a winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, as he bids to add to his tally of 14 winners at the meeting.
The four year old is a general 10-1 chance for the opening race on Friday’s card and boasts an impressive CV, winning three of his four starts over timber to date.
Those victories include a JCB Triumph Trial at the International Meeting at Cheltenham in December, while he picked up Grade One honours on his most recent start in the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow in January.
The line-up for the Grade One juvenile race will be a strong one, but Pipe is hopeful of a good run from his charge. He said: “My best chance is probably in the toughest race with Adagio.
“It looks an ultra-competitive Triumph Hurdle, but our fella hasn’t done a lot wrong and he’s improving with every run. After his last run he did have a bit of colic, which meant he missed a week, but he’s had a good preparation since. He’s in great form, but it does look a red hot Triumph this year.
“Obviously it’s always a concern at the time, but since then everything has gone well and he’ll have an away day somewhere before Cheltenham.
“We’re very much looking forward to it and the great thing for me about Adagio is that I don’t think it really matters what the ground is. He’s got Cheltenham form, he jumps, he travels and we’ll find out if he’s good enough at The Festival.”
Pipe was speaking following the release of the weights for the handicap races at The Festival™ supporting WellChild. One of his main hopes, Remastered, holds an entry in Tuesday’s Ultima Handicap Chase, as well as engagements in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and the National Hunt Challenge Cup.
The eight year old was last seen winning last month’s Grade Two Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot, and would have to carry a weight of 10st 12lbs if taking his chance in the Ultima.
Pipe has won the race on three occasions since 2008, most recently with Un Temps Pour Tout in 2016 and 2017, and stated that it would be the ground which would dictate which race Remastered runs in at The Festival.
He said: “I thought it was a really good performance (at Ascot). It wasn’t probably a great Reynoldstown, but he beat the horses that were put in front of him and battled really well all the way to the line.
“He’ll either go for the Ultima Handicap or the National Hunt Challenge Cup. A lot of his form is on soft or heavy ground so we would prefer it to be on the slower side, but he won’t be inconvenienced by better ground.
“If it’s softer we’ll probably go to the Ultima and if it comes up quicker the National Hunt Chase. The yard has done very well in the Ultima, but I think it would be a good performance to win it off 146 in all honesty – though, saying that, he’s done nothing wrong and is improving. The way he battled at Ascot last time was pleasing, and hopefully he’s open to more improvement.”
Meanwhile, one race which has eluded Pipe thus far is the contest named after his father, Friday’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, something he admitted he was keen to put right before the end of his career.
He said: “Everyone keeps telling me (that I need to win the race), but the harder I try the less likely it looks like I’m going to do it! My dad mentions it just a couple of times! Everyone ribs me, but we’re hoping he’s still alive when I do win the race!”
Pipe has several entries in the handicap races at The Festival, and of his entries in those races he nominated Brinkley as one to follow in two weeks’ time.
He said: “He disappointed first time out this season, but has won his last two and he’s probably rated high enough now, but he’s a lightly-raced and improving six year old.”
Pipe also discussed the chances of some of his other Festival contenders:
Main Fact (Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle)
“I think we’ll take our chance (in the Stayers’ Hurdle). He disappointed at Ascot but bounced back at Haydock with a good run to finish fourth. Obviously he’s a big price but we will be putting some kind of headgear on him in the Stayers’ to help both horse and jockey in the early stages. He deserves to take his chance, and obviously soft ground would be better for him, but it’s a big galloping track and why not have a go?”
Make Me A Believer (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)
“He’s in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, and we’ll decide closer to the time. Once again he’s done very little wrong this year and will make a lovely three-mile chaser, but hopefully he can go for one of those.”
Martinhal and Leoncavallo (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle)
“We’ve got a few entries in there but it’s so difficult. Martinhal will be a nice horse, but I’m not sure he’ll get in and he might go for the EBF Final at Sandown the Saturday before the Festival. Leoncavallo is an interesting horse, and is having a mid-season break after doing well for us on the Flat. He’s entered in that race and also the County Hurdle, and is a horse I like. He’s rated high enough at 142 and he’s nine years old, but he’s in very good form and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ran a decent race whichever one he goes for.”
Umbrigado (Grand Annual and Paddy Power Plate)
“Umbrigado is in two races – the Grand Annual and the Paddy Power Plate – and if he takes his chance (he’d be one to watch). He’s done nothing wrong this season and he’s not a definite runner at Cheltenham as he’s entered at Newbury on Saturday but I see the ground has dried out. He’s got a lot of talent and is an interesting one.”