The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle is a National Hunt hurdle race for conditional jockeys which is open to horses aged four years or older.
It is run on the New Course at Cheltenham over a distance of about 2 miles and 4½ furlongs and during its running there are nine hurdles to be jumped. Some very useful horses trained by the king of Closutton Wiliie Mullins have won the race in the last 2 years.
In 2014 Don Poli carried 11st 5lbs to be first past the post at odds of 12/1. Meanwhile in 2015, Kilultagh Vic carried the bottom weight and made it count when beating the Gordon Elliott trained and 140 rated Noble Endeavour by a head.
The handicap weights for this race have yet to come out but it’s usually a condensed handicap and there usually isn’t much between the top of the weights and the bottom weights.
A thoroughly difficult handicap to piece together, but one that does have a habit of producing a well-orchestrated gamble now and again….
Who won in 2016?
After a good day for favourites punters on the Friday, the market got this one wrong with 14/1 shot Ibis Du Rheu improving greatly for the switch to better ground. Tearaway leader Work In Progress was largely ignored but it was truly run and a good test at the trip. As in the County Hurdle the last hurdle had to be bypassed, again resulting in a lengthy run-in with no hurdles jumped in the straight. That makes the form a tad suspect and the winner has hardly set the world alight this season with his performances over fences.
How to pick the winner?
One stat is pretty damming in that seven of the nine winners have been second season hurdlers. Last season’s novices have achieved this strike rate from a less than 22% representation too. A reason for this very encouraging punting angle probably lies in the fact that these novices have been primed for this event over a unique distance that brings the best out of a horse that may be ahead of the handicapper.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has a solid record in this. Henderson has only won the Martin Pipe Conditional once but his place record is pretty extraordinary, having saddled nine top-five finishers, including four third place hauls.
Ante post tip?
Course form is obviously crucial at the Festival and Roi Des Francs might just be a horse to keep an eye on, with the hope he’ll be switched back hurdling by trainer Gordon Elliot. He finished a good third in this race two years ago and this looks his optimum trip over the sticks. He’s only 4lbs higher from two years ago over hurdles where he went off a very strongly backed 3/1 favourite.