We’re like an old married couple!
It’s a real blast from the past as we reunite two racing icons… the 15-time champion trainer Martin Pipe and eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore
Two racing icons, intrinsically linked, are back together and their bond and mutual respect are instantly evident. Fifteen-time champion jumps trainer Martin Pipe and eighttime champion jump jockey Peter Scudamore, two men who redefined their sport, are exchanging anecdotes and memories.
It’s just like the old days when Pipe says wife Carol reckoned he spent so much time on the phone to his stable jockey that he should have married him instead.
when Carol joins the recordbreaking couple, she confirms there were times when she felt there were three people in her marriage. The bickering couple allegory is hardly diminished when Pipe says of his relationship with Scudamore: ‘we never fell out but we fell out every hour!’
Carol adds: ‘They were on the phone for hour after hour. I could have cited Scu for divorce. They argued once about not going fast enough in a race. They sat down and argued as they timed how long it had taken between two hurdles while watching the race replay on the television.’
Another of Carol’s memories gives an insight into just how much it meant to the Pipes when Scudamore- ridden Granville Again won the Champion Hurdle 30 years ago.
Pipe had already landed eight of his 34 Cheltenham Festival wins by the time Granville Again beat Royal Derbi by a length, but this was the first really big one, the first time they had secured one of the championship races.
‘I got the winner’s rug that had been put on Granville, spread it on our bed that night and we slept under it,’ said Carol.
The Pipe story seems wonderful and romantic now, but at the time it was played out against a backdrop of suspicion and jealousy. Bookmaker’s son Pipe came into the sport knowing nothing, but voraciously soaked up all the information he could. Not weighed down by convention, he then revolutionised training methods, adopting an interval system that made his horses fitter than anyone else’s.
He replaced guesswork with science, regularly blood-testing his horses and compiling an encyclopaedic card system which recorded every detail about each of his horses from their racing weight to race-influencing traits.
It left the opposition standing and some didn’t like it. Pipe was accused of witchcraft, and others would whisper he might be able to win insignificant races by the bucket load, but the big ones were beyond him.
Scudamore says: ‘Refreshingly, Martin was never cluttered by traditions. I would say to him, “Up at Lambourn, we do this”, and he would ask why.
‘He was humble enough never to take anything for granted. By asking questions, he learned. He got all the one per cents right and they added up to 20 or 30 per cent. Even now I look at the gallops and facilities I have with my partner Lucinda Russell and think, “what would Martin do?” That is the greatest tribute I can pay him and so many people changed how they trained because of him.
‘There was jealousy towards us but the more people criticised us, the tighter we felt. The Champion Hurdle win was a little bit of, “Up yours, we can do it”.’
Pipe, with 4,183 European winners, adds: ‘I was happy to win any race at Cheltenham but it was nice to win a big one. I would’ve been happy to win the worst Champion Hurdle ever!’
Ironically, Pipe might not even have been training Granville Again if it had been down to his jockey, who hadn’t liked what he saw when despatched by his boss to bid for the gelding at a bloodstock auction.
Pipe bought Granville Again later and his Champion Hurdle win was made sweeter by the fact he’d looked the likely winner before falling in the 1992 race won by Royal Gait.
Redemption was achieved with a little help from another legendary racing figure, Michael Dickinson, who trained the first five home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Pipe said: ‘Granville Again was at his best the day he fell. our expectations were much higher then. Scu didn’t want to ride him the second year. He wanted to ride Valfinet, who had won the Kingwell Hurdle. He was leaning the wrong way.
‘Michael Dickinson helped me train him. Granville Again broke blood vessels and was beaten in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, his last run before the Champion Hurdle.
‘Michael just happened to come down one day. He told me how to treat it and what to do. It was all down to him. It is hard to get some of these difficult horses spot- on and Granville Again never won again because the problem kept recurring.’
Pipe may have been revolutionary in his training methods but he also knew how to get the best out of Scudamore with some Brian Clough- style psychology. Scudamore remembers: ‘He was very clever in how he drove me on. He’d say something like, “You’ll never be able to ride this horse like Mark Perrett”. It made me doubly determined.’
It was a technique Pipe used on his other great ally, Sir Anthony McCoy. ‘I would say to AP, “You will never win this race”, or, “we can’t win because the favourite’s a certainty”,’ Pipe says. ‘You could see AP thinking, “what!” and being even more determined! But it didn’t work with Richard Dunwoody. He never listened!’
The mind that changed racing is still whirring at 77. Pipe may have retired in 2006, handing control of his Somerset stable to son David, but the ideas don’t stop. The man who has a race named after him at the Festival says: ‘I am still thinking of new advantages all the time. I can’t sleep. I get up in the night and have a pen and paper besides the bed.
‘It’s stupid things, really. I have always wanted to build an underground gallop for when it’s bad weather. Then there’s automatic feeding systems for the middle of the night — that would be better for the horses and cheaper. There is loads to be done.’
And you still wouldn’t bet against Pipe doing it.