Vieux Lion Rouge 21
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The Inside Track on the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle

| 09.03.2014

National Hunt horse racing isn’t a sport blessed with an abundance of likeable characters so we have to treasure any that happen to come along, and this race is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest men the sport has ever seen.

Martin Pipe is the bookmaker’s son who revolutionised the game when I was a young and enthusiastic race-goer and, even though I am now middle-aged and recalcitrant, I still un-mute the racing coverage whenever this pint-sized giant of the sport comes on.

I very rarely get sentimental about this game but I would love to see David Pipe win this prize for the family, and VIEUX LION ROUGE looks like the most likely candidate from his battalion of entries this season.

They were talking about the Neptune for this gelding earlier in the season but he has been campaigned at the minor tracks, presumably with his handicap mark in mind, and he probably has more class than most of these.

He’s barely seen another horse in three facile novice hurdle successes and, given that he is built to carry two jockeys (or one Andrew Thornton), a lumpy weight might not stop him.

As for an outsider, the one who could run a huge race is the Philip Hobbs-trained novice Royal Regatta.

The worry with this one is that he is still entered in the Neptune (which he has no chance of winning) and Mr Hobbs is the sort of fella who would invite Alan Titchmarsh and Rihanna round for a BBQ and would have Rihanna mow the lawn while he goes skinny dipping with Titchmarsh.

But, if he turns up in the right race Royal Regatta looks fairly handicapped off 133 and he should bounce off the ground.

Selection: Vieux Lion Rouge

Alternative: Royal Regatta