Martin Pipe pays tribute to Imperial Cup and festival bonus winner Olympian
Martin Pipe recalled on Monday how he feared he had ruined Olympian's Cheltenham Festival chances by winning too easily with him seven days before the Imperial Cup, as he paid tribute to his stable star who died at the weekend.
Olympian, who was 31, was put down on Saturday on the farm of Alan and Sue Williams in Langstone, near Newport, where he had spent the last 20 years in retirement, after contracting colic.
Owned by Jim Neville, who later trained the horse himself, Olympian won ten times from 52 starts over hurdles and fences and enjoyed a golden period for Pipe in 1993, when he claimed the Imperial Cup and Coral Cup in the space of five days, in so doing collecting a £50,000 bonus from Sunderlands bookmakers.
Pipe and son David are the only trainers to have pulled off the double, payable if the Imperial Cup winner follows up by winning any race at the Cheltenham Festival in the same year. They have won it three times since its introduction in 1992.
"Olympian was the first horse we did the double with," said Pipe on Monday. "Jim brought him to me and I had to get the horse fit. I was getting cold feet so decided to make sure he was okay and took him to Stratford a week before Sandown.
"Halfway round I was asking myself, 'How far is he going to win? I've messed up the festival now. Why did I run him?'
"He was a good thing in the Imperial Cup. I thought we had that won, but I thought I'd messed up the Coral Cup. Luckily he won the Imperial Cup and did the double for us. We had some great times."
Olympian had won four times for Tom McGovern before he joined Pipe and subsequently won a novice chase, then handicap hurdles at Market Rasen and Ascot in 1996, when trained by Neville. He retired in 2002 after contesting three point-to-points.
Alan Williams said: "Olympian was a great friend and a character. When I went to turn him out I found him on the floor and showing symptoms of colic. We got a vet out, who treated him, but by 8pm on Saturday he was down again and not comfortable. The vet came out and we had to put him down."
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