One of the biggest names in racing during the 1990s and early 2000s, Martin Pipe was a well-known figure and also seen as a friend to the punters for many of the big wins he landed over the years. A winner of many big races, a feature on Saturdays during the peak of his career, but one race that you would expect Pipe to do well in, the Grand National, he was only able to win once.
In 1994, Miinnehoma was victorious in the Grand National, the first and what would be the only win of Martin Pipe’s horse racing career. Two years after retiring, Comply Or Die, who was under Pipe’s guidance, won the Grand National for David Pipe, Martin’s son. Still, David certainly had a hand in that victory, even if he didn’t get any official credit.
Born on May 29, 1945, Martin Pipe began training in 1974 at Nicholashayne in Devon. It took many years before he really hit the big time, which came in the 90s, and during the early 00s, until his retirement from horse racing in 2006.
Health reasons were behind that, but the yard was in an excellent position and was handed over to David Pipe, son of Martin and someone who had been working in the background for many years.
Alongside his one Grand National victory, Martin had 34 winners at the Cheltenham Festival. With plenty of top-quality horses in his yard, a smaller string may have been expected, but Pipe was a workhorse and continued to accept runners into the yard. This made him a champion, he won the Champion Trainers title 15 times, sitting at the top of racing.
In eight of those years, he had over 200 winners in a season, with his best coming in the 1999-2000 season, where he had 243 winners. At the end of his racing career, Pipe had amassed 4183 winners in Europe. To add another feather to his bow, these weren’t limited to national hunt racing, 256 of those came on the flat, and six came at the Royal Ascot meeting.
A true giant of the game and one that will forever go down as being a Grand National winner.
Martin Pipe Grand National Wins
- 1994 - Miinnehoma ridden by Richard Dunwoody
First Grand National Winner With Miinnehoma
The 1994 Grand National was a tough slog for runners, from the 36 that stood on the starting line, just six managed to complete the course. The winner was Miinnehoma for Martin Pipe, winning the race by just over a length with Just So back in second place.
We had a great race between the front two, which is rare when conditions are as bad as they were. There was one and a quarter length between the first and second, and then the big gaps came to the remainder. 20 lengths, 25 lengths, nine lengths and a distance were the other distances between the finishes, highlights once more what type of race this was.
At the time of this victory, Pipe was beginning to really fly and gain some momentum, improving on the quality and number of his runners as a whole. He saddled five in this Grand National, showing both his strength as a trainer and how much he wanted to win the race. Just two got round, he had 1st and 6th, the others were stopped for various reasons during the race.
In terms of the finish, we had three runners in contention at the final flight, the pair that eventually finished first and second, plus Moorcroft Boy, who was sent off as the strong 5/1 favourite. It was the favourite who jumped the final flight in the lead, but he then faded quickly, leaving the other two to battle it out. It was later found that Moorcroft Boy broke a blood vessel at the final fence, robbing us of what would have been a great, three-way finish.
The two left looked as though they were travelling to the finish in slow motion, such was the test in conditions and what they had been through during the race. Miinnehoma was looking like he had a little more left to give, finishing slightly better, and he was able to keep Just So at bay and win the race.
Miinnehoma would return a year later to try and defend his crown but was pulled up by jockey Richard Dunwood at the 21st fence.
Early Training Struggles And A Lack Of Winners
If you look at the time when Martin Pipe was successful with his operation, you would be forgiven for thinking he had it easy all the time. That certainly was not the case, the initial part of his training career was a real struggle, with few winners, and those that did manage to win could only do so at a low level.
He started training in 1974 but had to wait until May of 1975 to bag his first winner. The was Hit Parade, who won a Taunton selling hurdle, the lowest grade in racing. He would take time to really hit the top of racing, too, despite being crowned champion trainer 15 times during his career, he didn’t win this title for 14 seasons.
The first big splash for Pipe, one that really helped him get on the right path, came at the Cheltenham Festival in 1981. Baron Blakeney was the horse, he won the Triumph Hurdle at the festival at huge odds of 66/1, and this was the start of Pipe moving into the big time.
Dominance In The 1990’s And 2000’s
When he got going, it is fair to say that Pipe used everything he had to build on the success he was starting to see. The yard went from strength to strength, with more people wanting him to train horses, and as more money came into the stable, the improvement kept coming.
After plenty of hard work, for little reward, to begin his training career, Pipe certainly deserved everything that was going his way. The 90s and early 00’s were the main time when the stable had great success, though the late 80s was when the tide really began to turn in his favour.
Pipe would be 15-time champion trainer in the UK, showing his dominance over the sport at every level you can think of. He had plenty of big race winners, 34 in total at the Cheltenham Festival, but was equally at home with runners in lower grade contests through the week. During the 90s, in particular, Pipe built a reputation on being happy to send a horse anywhere if he thought the race gave him a chance to win.
He trained 200 winners or more in eight different seasons, with his best being 243, which came in the 1999/2000 season. He ended his career with 4183 European winners, an astonishing figure and a sign of just how much success he really had in his golden period when you consider how few winners he had across the first decade of his career.
Don’t forget his ability to work out which horses from his stable were also capable of running on the flat in summer. He had 256 flat winners across the years, this was no fluke, he was equally capable of tackling all types of racing and doing so at both the top end and the lower grades, anything to get winners on the board.
The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
Many horses and trainers find themselves being recognised by the sport, with a race named after them. These are usually smaller races, but to give you an idea of the way in which Martin Pipe dominated the horse racing scene during his time, his race is at the Cheltenham Festival.
In 2009, after retirement, a new race was added to the festival, a handicap hurdle for conditional jockeys. This was named the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle in honour of Pipe and his services to the sport.
The race, a tough-to-solve puzzle full of handicappers who are hoping to have something in hand at the weights, is a great race for Pipe because keeping horses well handicapped is probably what many people will remember him for.
Given his success at the top level and in big handicaps, it seems a fitting way to pay tribute to a stalwart of the racing world.
Famous Horses Trained By Martin Pipe
Here are some of the bigger names trained by Martin Pipe during his career.
Make A Stand