Pipe can prove to be Imperial Cup Master once again

THE Paddy Power Imperial Cup has been a Pipe-family benefit over the years with father Martin winning it six times and his son David landing back-to-back renewals in 2007 and 2008. The sponsors offer a £75,000 bonus for the winner to land any race at next week’s Cheltenham Festival and the last one to successfully double up was Gaspara in 2007.

MASTER OF ARTS is the only representative for the Pipes and punters should take note, especially as he’s wearing blinkers for the first time. The seven-year old was a short price for the Triumph when he last raced over hurdles in 2009, but he disappointed that day. He had a long break after that, but his last two runs on the flat in September were really strong.

Tom Scudamore’s mount opened up at 10/1 earlier in the week, but that has been hammered down to 9/2 with Coral. I still think there’s some mileage in that price and he could be extremely well-handicapped on ground that he loves.

The big danger is Ted Spread who is also potentially well ahead of his mark. Paul Nicholls has him entered in the County Hurdle and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hurdle next week and he will be a tough nut to crack in either of those races. I normally try to take on the leading fancies in these big handicap hurdles, but I can’t see past the top two in the market and narrow preference is for the Pipe runner.

Our Cheltenham Festival coverage kicks-off on Monday with a full report on Coral's Preview Night from earlier this week. Then, the Punter will be back each day of the meeting with three daily pages of insight. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all the latest Festival news.