The penultimate contest on day two of the Cheltenham Festival 2012, the Fred Winter Novices Hurdle, did not even exist when the man in whose honour it is named captured all the big National-Hunt prizes, both in the saddle and later as a trainer.
With the cream of the season’s juvenile talent heading for the Triumph Hurdle, this contest gives a chance to those just on the cusp, although of course there’s nothing to say, given the age group, that there won’t be a well-handicapped improver among them.
Dabiroun was the first on the roll of honour in 2005, and saw Nina Carberry become the first lady rider to visit the winner’s enclosure at the Festival in 18 years. Then 12 months ago, the Irish were celebrating again as What A Charm got the better of a tremendous battle with Alan King’s Kumbeshwar.
In 2007, the Pipe’s earned a massive £75,000 bonus when the mare Gaspara pulled off a notable double after earlier landing the Imperial Cup at Sandown, and just 12 months later they attempted the same feat with Ashkazar, but he could not quite cope with topweight and had to settle for second behind Crack Away Jack.
This year David Pipe has an interesting contender in French import Kazlian who has won his last two outings over hurdles, most recently at Leicester, so watch out if he should be aimed at Sandown a week earlier. Anyone looking for Cheltenham Festival tips will have to keep an eye on him.
Alan King is spoilt for choice with a wealth of juvenile talent, and has a lot of head scratching to do to determine who goes for what. At present, ex-French Vendor who overcame a mistake at the final flight to open his account on these shores at Newbury, looks a leading candidate, while Balder Succes, unbeaten in four starts, would be strongly fancied if going for this rather than either the Triumph or indeed a crack at his elders in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.