Training a Grand National winner is one of the most elusive accolades in horse racing. Look at three-time Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson: trainer of over 2000 winners, the guiding hand for over 50 Cheltenham Festival winners and a stable that has included Long Run, Bobs Worth and Binocular. However, no Grand National has come for Henderson in 37 attempts. This is no slight on Nicky Henderson, who has earned his reputation as one of the best ever national hunt trainers. Rather, it is a testament to how difficult it is to win the world’s most famous horse race.
Which brings us to the Pipe family. Martin Pipe and his son, David Pipe, have both tasted success at the Aintree Grand National. Martin landed his only National win with Minnehoma in 1994. It was possibly the highlight of a legendary career that spanned over thirty years, with dozens of big race wins. 34 of those wins came at the Cheltenham Festival, and just to show that he was the consummate all-rounder, six more came on the flat at the Royal Ascot Festival. Pipe the elder had won the Champion Trainer title an incredible 15 times before he retired and handed the reigns over to son David in 2006.
David would take the ball and run with it, training the Grand National Winner, Comply or Die, in 2008. He has had reasonable success over the last decade, but it is safe to say that he will never have a record to match his father. Again, this is no slight on David Pipe. It is rather an admission that horse racing has changed in recent years. The era of dominance by a single trainer, or group of trainers, is over. This is no more apparent than in the Grand National. No trainer has won more than one Grand National in the last 15 years. There era of Ginger McCain or Vincent O’Brien training National winners year after year is over.
In 2017 however, David Pipe has the chance to do something that will help him step out of his father’s shadow – win a second Grand National. He trains the current bookies’ favourite for the race, Vieux Lion Rouge. While the race is notoriously difficult to predict, Vieux Lion Rouge is ticking all the boxes of what it takes to be a Grand National winner. He came a credible 7th in 2016, showing that he has what it takes to handle the fences and distance. He has gone from strength to strength since then, winning the Becher’s Chase at Aintree and coming second in the Grand National trials at Haydock.
A horse in form, as well as being comfortable with the course and distance, may just land David Pipe his second Grand National win. You can view the latest odds for Vieux Lion Rouge and other runners at http://sports.williamhill.com/bet/en-gb/events/grand-national now. Regardless of who wins the 2017 Grand National, it will surely be, as ever, a thrilling race. But if Vieux Lion Rouge can capitalise for David Pipe, then the son may finally eclipse the father.