Trainer David Pipe is taking pressure of Cheltenham Festival build-up in his stride
David Pipe is enjoying the stresses that go with training one of the most talented team of horses in Britain in the lead up to the Festival.
As the son of legendary trainer Martin, the 40-year-old learned from an early age about the pressures of trying to ensure horses peaked when it mattered most.
Pipe has trained eight Festival winners since succeeding his dad as the master of Pond House stables in Nicholashayne, Somerset in 2006.
Over the past seven years he has got used to the drama and excitement that accompanies every build-up to the Festival and he wouldn't have it any other way.
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"It's stressful but it's nice to have horses to get stressed about and good enough to run in these races – that's what we all do it for," he sad.
"It's got to the stage when every trainer is just happy the first race is up and running and you can get on with it.
"The horses have been running well all season and we just hope we can keep it going."
If Pipe needed any reminding of the disappointments the Festival can bring, he need only reflect on the performance of Grands Crus last year.
The grey gelding was the most talked-about horse going into the meeting, but as favourite for the RSA Chase he ran below expectations, finishing a weary fourth.
His form has been so mixed this season that Pipe said he wasn't even sure Grands Crus, who has been receiving treatment for ulcers, would run at the Festival.
"He is his usual laidback self and is in two races at the Festival, the World Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase," he said.
"All I can tell you is that he is the same horse at home on the gallops. Gerry (Supple) rides him and says he feels no different.
"He may go to Cheltenham, he may go to Aintree, he may go to Punchestown or he may not run again this season.
"We are keeping everything open and will do what is best for the horse."
Pipe's team for this year's Festival will be spearheaded by Dynaste, hot favourite for the RSA Chase after enjoying a similar build-up to Grands Crus last year.
He extended his unbeaten record over fences to three with a stellar performance in the Feltham Chase at Kempton over Christmas, which Grands Crus had won 12 months previously.
Pipe said: "He is in good form and has done nothing wrong.
"He had a very good season last season over hurdles. He is bigger and stronger this year.
"He has won over two and a half miles twice and then he put up a very good performance in the Feltham at Kempton over three miles.
"He won't mind what the ground is and has a very similar profile to Grands Crus but he is more straightforward.
"He is a good traveller, jumps nicely, is straightforward and has a nice engine.
"He looks rock solid. I did not think this year's Feltham was as strong as last year's but Hadrian's Approach ran a very good race behind Unioniste which franked the form.
"Any weaknesses? I hope not, I don't know of any. He's looks rock solid but then Grands Crus looked rock solid last year."
Goulanes and Buddy Bolero are ones to watch:
Two novice chasers for whom David Pipe has high hopes at the Festival are Goulanes and Buddy Bolero.
Goulanes could look to extend his unbeaten run to four in either the RSA Chase or the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase following wins at Newbury, Cheltenham and Wetherby.
Pipe said: "He won very well at Wetherby last time out, his first chase at Grade Two level, so we had put him in at the deep end.
"At Wetherby, all he did was stay and he loves to aim at something in front.
"He has to improve for the RSA but there is definitely more improvement there.
"He's a lightly-raced horse who came from the point-to-pointing field so he's actually had two runs over fences already.
"He's unbeaten with us so far – two over hurdles and one over fences – and the great thing about this horse is his attitude.
"He's not flashy, he's workmanlike and very gutsy and stays very well and handles most types of ground.
"He is a little bit inexperienced but he is progressive and going the right way.
"He's one of our bigger hopes for the week."
Buddy Bolero is being aimed at the National Hunt Chase over four miles after impressing in victories over shorter distances at Folkestone, Exeter and Leicester.
Pipe is giving the gelding all the time he needs to fulfil his potential and he hopes that patient approach earns its rewards next week.
"He won last time at Leicester, very easily, though it was not the greatest of contests," said Pipe.
"He has had all his runs for Pond House and improved with each of them.
"Once again, we have been patient with this fellow.
"He was entered at the Festival last year but we did not think it was right for him to go there.
"He grew again last summer and is a big horse now and he still has some more filling out to do.
"He appears to be an out and out galloper and did it nicely at Leicester.
"He will go to the National Hunt Chase. I don't know if he will stay four miles but if he does he will be in there with a shout.
"He is a horse next season who hopefully will end up in races like the Welsh National.
"He does the business and I have always liked him."
The Liquidator is tailor-made for Champion Bumper:
There is no hiding David Pipe's enthusiasm for the chances of The Liquidator in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
A big run is expected from the youngster after he enjoyed a confidence-boosting success at Exeter last time out.
Pipe said: "He is out of Alikat, whom Dad used to train and is very similar to that horse in size and being very light-framed.
"He is a good horse and ran a cracking race at Cheltenham in November to finish second in the Listed bumper.
"The plan was always to go for the bumper at the Festival, with one run in between and we picked a nice easy race for him at Exeter the other day.
"We did not want him to have a tough race and he basically had a racecourse gallop.
"He is not overly big but has a good attitude.
"He is not flashy sort, he's workmanlike and goes about his business.
"He reminds me a lot of Liberman with whom Dad won the bumper ten years ago.
"He won't mind the hustle and bustle and will keep galloping up that hill – I think he's tailor-made for the bumper."
Pipe has left nothing to chance with Gevrey Chamberlain by giving him entries in several options at the Festival.
He will go through them with a fine tooth comb in a bid to find the most winnable option for the brother of Grands Crus.
"He has done nothing wrong this season, winning three out of three, and he is improving rapidly," said Pipe.
"He battled really well in a couple of his races and so I was pleased he had a nice easy race last time at Wincanton.
"He is a very good jumper and travels well, and he is a lot more straightforward than his brother.
"He has only been beaten once in his life and I would like to keep it that way."
Close House is heading for the Pertemps Final after winning a qualifier for the race last time out.
The gelding finished fourth to Simonsig at last year's Festival and Pipe is hopeful of another bold show.
Naturally, he would like to win the race named after his dad, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, for the first time after it was introduced in 2009.
But he said: "I've given up with that race already!
"I'm trying to win it but I'm not going to get wound up about it. What will be will be."
Flying Cross can make huge jump forward:
Victory for Flying Cross at the Festival would represent a remarkable feat of training by David Pipe.
The gelding has yet to even race over jumps and could make in the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle or the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.
Pipe said: "He's probably the 'darkest' horse we send to the Festival – he's never run over hurdles.
"He was a very good horse on the Flat with Aidan O'Brien – he finished third in the Irish St Leger – and if he can translate that to hurdles he could be a very good horse.
"He has schooled nicely at home, all he has done is improve.
"He has had a tendon injury, hence he has been off for a long time, but we've put a lot of work into him and he has been improving daily.
"It's a big ask but it's one that we hope he's up to.
"He's an out and out galloper who doesn't mind cut in the ground.
"He's still a colt and he's quite laid-back and the more you ask of him the more he gives you."