On Saturday, David Pipe’s Main Fact will line up in the Long Walk at Ascot against some of the world’s best staying hurdlers. Should the seven-year-old win, it would be David Pipe’s first British Grade 1 victory since winning the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2015 with Moon Racer.
Main Fact enters the race on Saturday having claimed black type success at Haydock last time out in the Grade 3 Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle. However, that is just half the story as he is also bidding for a 10th win in a row and David Pipe is understandably very excited:
“It was a fantastic performance at Haydock and he came out of it in very good form. We never imagined he was going to end up as good as he is over hurdles but he just keeps going and going.”
Main Fact winning on the heavy ground at Haydock last month
It is fair to say that winning 10 races back to back is some feat and it takes some planning in order to put a campaign together. However, David was confident that he was just getting better and better. “When you have a horse like him, you have to make your own assessment. We thought he was still potentially well handicapped with everything he was showing us on the yard and so we just kept plotting our way accordingly.”
When asked how it feels to be taking on the staying star that is Paisley Park and possibly the ‘young pretender’ Thyme Hill, Pipe didn’t shy away from the fact he’d rather have an easier time of it - “I’d rather they weren’t going.”
The owners, Munrowd's Partnership, have had a brilliant time of it and Pipe just wants to ensure that they all enjoy their time and make the most of it. “It has been an absolute dream run from the owners and they understand that, but there aren’t too many other races to go for. So we are going to enjoy it. But with all the rain that is forecast, it sort of plays to our strengths.”
He keeps improving with every race. I keep telling the owners that this is probably it now and that he has peaked but he keeps proving me wrong so let’s hope for the same again on Saturday.
The Stayers and return to the Flat on the cards
Without getting too ahead of himself, Pipe believes that if Main Fact put in a sound display on Saturday, he would warrant a start in March.
“A lot depends on how he gets on on Saturday. The form tells you he is a better horse on soft to heavy ground so this may actually suit him more than the Cheltenham Festival. It is unlikely you are going to get that in March. If he finishes in the first three on Saturday, he would have earnt a place in March.”
Fergus Gillard returns for the ride on Saturday and as you would expect, he is very excited. “To be riding in a Grade 1, that’s what the dreams are made of. He has had some winners lately and is in very good form, you can imagine how he must feel.”
Fergus Gillard celebrates Main Fact's ninth win on the bounce
Pipe didn’t want to give too much away, but he did confirm that the staying star will make a return to the flat. “He’ll make a return to the flat at the end of the season. I’m not sure when but he will be aimed at the long distance races. As I say he likes the cut in the ground so if that was around for something like the Cesarewitch, I can see him going for that and having a good chance.”
Updates on Vieux Lion Rouge and Ramses De Teillee
After an emphatic performance in the Becher Chase at Aintree which had racing fans everywhere off their feet for the horse to have jumped the more National fences than any other horse, Pipe believes he may struggle at the age of 11 to find a performance like that again.
“You’d have to question whether he can perform to that level at the age of 11, but that was a near career best. It is going to be a lot harder, I hope the handicapper is proved right but it is going to be a tough ask.”
The other staying chaser that Pipe has in his ranks is Ramses De Teillee. He wasn’t quite as eye-catching as his stable companion at Aintree last time out and the team have a big call to make ahead of Chepstow’s Welsh National.
“He didn’t take the fences at Aintree, he is still in the National running but we will make a decision next week. He likes the soft ground but the team need to have a chat ahead of a making that call.”