Wednesday 17 May 2017

Warren Greatrex: Hard Work Pays Off

Warren Greatrex started his racing career as a teenager with David ‘The Duke’ Nicholson and worked for Bryan Smart and Oliver Sherwood, among others, before succeeding Carl Llewelyn as salaried trainer to owner Malcolm Denmark at Weathercock House, Upper Lambourn in 2009. Three years later, he rented nearby Uplands – once the base of legendary National Hunt trainer Fred Winter – from former trainer Charlie Egerton and moved in with a string of just over 20 horses. Greatrex said at the time, “It is a bit daunting and I know it's going to take a lot of hard work, but I’m not frightened of rolling my sleeves up.”

Greatrex saddled his first Grade 1 winner, Cole Harden, in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015. Under a bold ride from Gavin Sheehan, the 6-year-old made every yard of the running and stayed on strongly to beat the favourite, Saphir Du Rheu, by 3¼ lengths, leaving his trainer fighting back tears. That season, Greatrex amassed over £500,000 in total prize money for the first time.

After a series of breathing operations, Cole Harden returned to the Cheltenham Festival in 2016, but could only finish fourth of 12, beaten 31 lengths, behind Thistlecrack in the Ryanair World Hurdle. Nevertheless, the following month Greatrex saddled his second Grade 1 winner, One Track Mind, in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, at Punchestown. Interviewed during the 2015/16 season, Greatrex said, “I started with 10 horses. We have 75 now, so something has gone right.”

More recently, the stable star at Uplands has been La Bague Au Roi, the winner of 10 races for the yard including, most recently, the Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot in 2018. The Doctor Dino mare could only finish seventh of 16, beaten 16½ lengths, behind Let’s Dance in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle on her only previous visit to the Cheltenham Festival in 2017. Nevertheless, Greatrex said of her, “She is more talented than Cole Harden. He won his races by being very tough and he would grind them into the ground. She has got a lot more class.” She reported runs in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle or the Sun Bet Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018, but Greatrex added, “Whichever race she runs in she will run very well.”
Greatrex has a number of potential Cheltenham Festival contenders, including Keeper Hill, who fell on his most recent outing at Musselburgh, but has reportedly schooled well since and is likely to contest the National Hunt Chase, rather than the RSA Chase.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

David Pipe: Well Schooled in the Art of Training

According to George Herbert, “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters” and those words may resonate with David Pipe, son of Martin Pipe, the most successful National Hunt trainer in the history of British horse racing. During a career lasting over four decades, Martin sent out a record 4,180 winners and won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship fifteen times. He also developed revolutionary, indeed often controversial, methods of racehorse training, which David inherited when he took over the training licence at Pond House in Nicholashayne, Devon in 2006.

In his younger days, David worked alongside Michael Dickinson, Criquette Head-Maarek and Joey Ramsden – all hugely successful trainers – before setting himself up as a point-to-point trainer. In six seasons at Purchase Farm, just a mile away from Pond House, he saddled 164 winners.

When he took over from his father, success came quickly. His first runner, Standin Obligation, won a novices’ chase at Kelso – 400 miles away from Nicholashayne in the Scottish Borders – at odds of 1/6 and was quickly followed by Wee Dinns in a handicap hurdle later on the same card and Papillon De Iena in a handicap chase at Exeter that same evening.

An across-the-card treble on his first day in charge was, like his father, a hard act to follow, but David maintained the tempo throughout his debut season. In fact, he trained 134 winners, including his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Gaspara – who was, fittingly, owned by his father – that year and finished third in the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship with £1.6 million in prize money.

In his second season, 2007/08, David saddled two more winners at the Cheltenham Festival, An Accordion in the Festival Trophy Handicap Chase and Our Vic in the Ryanair Chase. Just over three weeks later, he gained his biggest ever success when Comply Or Die forged clear from the famous Elbow on the run-in at Aintree to win the Grand National by 4 lengths.

Fast forward a decade or so and David Pipe has saddled over 1,000 winners, including Madison Du Berlais, a surprise winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2008, and 14 winners at the Cheltenham Festival. His most recent successes at Prestbury Park include Un Temps Pour Tout, winner of the Ultima Hcap Chase in both 2016 and 2017. Under the watchful eye of his father – who, at 72, still occupies the position of assistant trainer at Pond House – David has saddled a winner at every National Hunt racecourse in the country.