Swing Bowler wings her way to victory at Musselburgh last yearPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Pipe back with strong hand for Imperial win
DAVID PIPE has waited six years for another victory in the William Hill Imperial Cup, a race his father Martin won six times, but he looks to have a strong hand to bridge the gap at Sandown on Saturday.
Since Ashkazar became the second of Pipe's back-to-back winners in 2008 his record has included a couple of near misses, with Seven Is My Number and Tanerko Emery runners up in 2009 and 2013 respectively.
Pipe saddles topweight Swing Bowler and the more strongly-fancied Baltimore Rock in the £70,000 handicap hurdle that offers a bonus of £100,000 from William Hill should the winner follow up with a victory at the Cheltenham Festival.
Swing Bowler ran an encouraging fifth in the Betfair Hurdle on her first start since the 2013 Cheltenham Festival and runs at Sandown after a rethink by her trainer.
Pipe said: "We were thinking of going straight to Cheltenham with Swing Bowler, but this race has cut up a bit.
"She ran a decent race in the Betfair Hurdle, having not enjoyed the best preparation, and must have a chance even with top weight."
Swing Bowler and Baltimore Rock are entered in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at the festival next week with the former the more fancied of the pair at 16-1. Swing Bowler could also run in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle in which she ran down the field in 2013.
Pipe added that Baltimore Rock "has been doing well of late" since a win at Ludlow in February. "He will have to improve again," Pipe added, "but is at the right end of the weights."
The going at Sandown was given on Friday as soft, heavy in places on the hurdles course, and soft on the chase course but good to soft in the back straight.
Drying conditions were evident once more on Friday at Cheltenham where the official going was changed to good to soft, soft in places, from soft, good to soft in places.
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse even raised the possibility of watering the New Course used on Thursday and Friday.
He said: "We have had a glorious day, sunny, warm and windy, with temperatures at 15C. It's the first time it's been good to soft since the Friday of our December meeting.
"We might get a little drizzle over the next couple of days but beyond Monday there is no rainfall forecast at all, with temperatures of 14C and 15C throughout the week.
"We might need to give consideration to watering the Thursday and Friday track, but we will take it day by day."
The cross-country course was soft, heavy in places.