David Pipe back on winning trail after tough Cheltenham Festival week
Somerset trainer David Pipe suffered some expensive reverses at the Cheltenham Festival but they were all forgotten as he won a third consecutive Betfred Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter with Big Occasion.
Having struck in 2011 with Minella Four Star, the Pond House handler followed up 12 months later with Master Overseer.
The latter was back again, but he is at least consistent in his inconsistency as his form figures this season now read P1P1P after he was pulled up on the final circuit.
Big Occasion began his career with Aidan O’Brien – not surprisingly as he is a son of the late, great sire Sadler’s Wells – but after disappointing in the 2011 Cesarewitch he was sold to his current connections.
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He managed to win a couple over the smaller obstacles but for one with such stamina, fences looked likely to bring out the best in him.
Having only his sixth start in a steeplechase, it looked a big ask for the six-year-old from out of the handicap.
That was until his amateur jockey Mikey Ennis was carted up to join the leaders before the straight on the final circuit and he held off Rebeccas Choice by six lengths.
For Pipe, who had Dynaste, Ballynagour and Gevrey Chambertin all beaten as favourites at the Festival, it brought a good end to a trying week.
“He’d been running on the Flat for Aidan O’Brien (as a younger horse) and he hadn’t been running that well in the first half of the season,” said Pipe.
“We changed the way we were training him. I wasn’t sure he’d get three miles, let alone four.
“He was given a great ride by Mikey Ennis and it’s a great win.”
“Unfortunately Master Overseer has put another ‘P’ next to his name but the way we have changed our training of Big Occasion has obviously worked.”
Elsewhere on the card, Gloucestershire’s Nigel Twiston-Davies team added to the Festival double with another brace, highlighted by Kaylif Aramis in the Betfred Mobile Lotto Handicap Hurdle.
“He travelled and jumped well all the way.
“He’s a half-brother to Kayf Aramis and loved the ground,” said Sam Twiston-Davies, who was also on Hunters Lodge for his father.
His brother, Willy Twiston-Davies, was not to be outdone, either, as he secured a notable victory on Ladies Are Forever (10-1) in the Listed Blue Square Bet Hever Sprint Stakes at Lingfield.
Andrea Atzeni advertised his skills as a freelance with a big-race double on Farraaj and Teophilip.
The Italian-born rider made his first high-profile mount for Roger Varian count when driving home Farraaj in the Blue Square Bet Winter Derby.
Atzeni had earlier struck on Teophilip (10-1) for fellow Italian Marco Botti in the bluesq.com Spring Cup.