2021 Cheltenham Festival – Mullins Has The Answer In Tricky Handicap

runners in the Martin Pipe Hurdle pass the packed stands in 2019runners in the Martin Pipe Hurdle pass the packed stands in 2019

2021 Martin Pipe Hurdle Tips

The closing race on Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham Festival is the latest handicap to come into view of Lewis Tomlinson. Here, he analyses the key players.

2021 Martin Pipe Overview

“The boys’ race” concludes The Festival, providing conditional jockeys the chance to shine on the big stage, and punters a final chance to end a winning week on a high. Winners of this race have frequently gone on to bigger and better things, with future Grade 1 winners Sir Des Champs, Don Poli and Killultagh Vic all taking the Martin Pipe as novices in it’s eleven-year history.

Key Contenders – Wide Receiver

Prominent in the market and he fits the typical profile of a potentially well-handicapped novice that we’ve often seen aimed at the Martin Pipe. Useful without being top class in bumpers last season, he’s operated at a similar level in his novice hurdling campaign up until now.

His jumping, which possibly lost him the race when beaten by Jessica Harrington’s smart Ashdale Bob at Navan, has improved as the season has gone but I think he’s well found in the betting and anticipate better value to be had elsewhere

Make Me A Believer

Future will lie over fences but he’s shown smart in his three starts over hurdles to date and I can see him going well here. He bumped into the unbeaten Bear Ghylls on his debut over obstacles in an absurdly strong race at Lingfield before impressing with the manner of his victory over 2m1f here at Cheltenham in, battling his way back to the front close to the line after being headed before the last.

A close third in Warwick’s Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle was also a fine effort, and this likeable six-year-old is one to keep an eye for next season no matter what happens at the Festival. He’ll be a smashing three-mile chaser when the time comes.

Mint Condition

The horse who finished a head ahead of Make Me A Believer at Warwick in second was Mint Condition. Now, this is a bit of a wild swing, as isn’t actually priced up with any firm for this race. I’ve had him in mind as a potential Martin Pipe candidate since Christmas and I’d love to see him entered, especially given he’s already won this season under Lilly Pinchin, who I rate as one of the best conditionals riding in Britain at the minute.

Ganapathi

Alhough Willie Mulins has mooted the Supreme as this horse’s Festival target, I’d be really keen on the chances of Ganapathi should he come here. A bumper winner for Emmanuel Clayeux, Ganapathi made a winning start for his new connections at Cork in late November.

His second in the Moscow Flyer on his start showed he probably finds two-miles on the sharp side and was stepped up to 2m6f to run in the  Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy at the Dublin Racing Festival, for my money the deepest novice hurdle we’ve seen all season. This was his best performance yet, travelling in the manner of a smart horse before not quite being able to sustain his challenge all the way to the line over the extended 2m6f. Dropping back two furlongs should see him to full effect, and his current Irish rating of 137 has clear upside to it. Fingers crossed Mullins attempts to take advantage.

Champagne Gold

Henry De Bromhead’s Champagne Gold also fits a typical Martin Pipe profile, having been placed in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle and the competitive Ladbrokes Handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival on his last two starts, whilst stablemate Irascible probably holds the single strongest piece of form amongst the current market leaders, in the shape of his Grade 1 second to Appreciate It over Christmas.

He didn’t build upon that when fifth in the Chanelle Pharma last time, but he still doesn’t look particularly harshly treated from 139 and should have no problem with the step up to 2m4f.

N’Golo

N’Golo’s form at the beginning of the season would see him in the mix here, but he’s been well beaten on his last two starts, failing to beat a rival home on either occasion and Willie Mullins has stated the need for good ground to see this grey at his best. The talent is certainly there, but he’s impossible to have full confidence in and he’s probably too short given the question marks surrounding him.

Martin Pipe Hurdle Big-Race Verdict

Unsurprisingly, the pre-entry market is dominated by novices, and it’s one who may take up an entry in a Graded race I’m keenest on. I’m convinced GANAPATHI will prove to be a least 10lb better than his current OR in Ireland suggests, and I’d go as far as saying he’d be my top handicap selection of the week, so, please, Willie, send him here! Mint Condition would be second on the list if featuring amongst the entries, whilst Make Me A Believer also merits a mention as the back-up in case of their absences.

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