To anyone with even a passing interest in National Hunt racing in Britain, Martin Charles Pipe CBE barely requires an introduction. Pipe first took out a public training licence at Pond House Stables – formerly Tuckers Farm, a derelict pig framing facility bought by his father, David, in 1973 – in Nicholashayne, near Wellington, Somerset in 1974. He was far from an overnight success but, when he retired, due to ill health, in April, 2006, he had become, far and away, the most successful trainer in the history of the sport, with 4,180 winners to his name. He was hailed by his contemporaries as the man who, almost single-handedly, revolutionised the way in which National Hunt horses were trained and, in so doing, made National Hunt racing more competitive and, therefore, more popular.
Pipe took 14 seasons to become Champion Trainer for the first time but, having secured his inaugural trainers’ title in 1988/89, would head the National Hunt standings 15 times in total – a sequence interrupted only by David Nicholson in 1993/94 and 1994/95 – before his retirement. In fact, the 1988/89 season was the first of eight in which he trained over 200 winners in a season and his total of 208 winners that year was almost double the previous record.
Pipe saddled 34 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, starting with 66/1 chance Baron Blakeney, ridden by Paul Leach, in the Triumph Hurdle in 1981. During his title-winning years, he recorded four victories in the main ‘championship’ races – Granville Again and Make A Stand in the Champion Hurdle, in 1993 and 1997, respectively and Balasani and Cyborgo in the Stayers’ Hurdle, in 1994 and 1996, respectively – and, while the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase remained elusive, he was leading trainer, outright, at the Cheltenham Festival in 1991, 1997, 1998 and 2002.