'The stable suddenly appears to be burgeoning with potential stars again'
Ballymore Leamington Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) | 2m5f | 5yo+ | ITV4/RTV
If there has been one thing to warm the heart at the start of 2021, it has been the return of David Pipe to the Grade 1 scene.
Pipe is a name synonymous with Grade 1s and Adagio’s victory in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday gave the Devon-based trainer his first top-level success in a British hurdle or chase for nearly seven years.
It was Dynaste (2014 Ryanair Chase) who provided that last top-level strike and the stable suddenly appears to be burgeoning with potential stars again as Make Me A Believer bids to give Pipe prestigious novice hurdle wins on back-to-back weekends in this Grade 2.
Read more of our Saturday tipping . . .
Just like Adagio last week, Make Me A Believer comes into his race after a Cheltenham victory and he battled on well to defeat Any News in that hot novice event last month.
That came over 2m1f, but Make Me A Believer is considered a three-mile chaser in the making and the step up in trip promises to unlock further improvement.
A Pipe resurgence could be on the cards if Make Me A Believer can confirm his promise.
Colin Tizzard would welcome a resurgence of any kind. His string has been hit-and-miss through a season that has delivered just 25 winners, and he is yet to break his duck this year.
An unenviable 0-14 since the start of 2021, Tizzard has saddled just two winners since Oscar Elite’s victory in a novice event over 2m7½f at Chepstow at the start of December.
That made it 2-2 for Oscar Elite this season, his strike-rate eclipsing that of many of his stablemates, and he certainly looks like the Tizzard team’s great white hope going forward.
He is a three-mile point winner, though, so whether he will be seen to best effect over this two-and-a-half-furlong shorter trip on a sharper track is seriously open to question.
The final word goes to Adrimel, who missed the Grade 1 Tolworth at Sandown two weeks ago but is highly rated by Tom Lacey. He fits first-time cheekpieces and has a 19 per cent strike-rate with runners in that headgear for the first time, for a £1 level-stake profit of £4.75.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway
Adrimel has his chance to shine
Adrimel’s sole defeat in five starts to date came in Cheltenham’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper last March.
Sent off at 25-1, the talented six-year-old finished 16th of 23 in a race which has worked out superbly, with the likes of Appreciate It, Third Time Lucki and The Glancing Queen all taking significant steps forward since.
Adrimel missed the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown a fortnight ago and trainer Tom Lacey is looking forward to having a crack at this Grade 2 with a horse he clearly holds in high regard.
“We’re very happy with him,” he said. “I understand that ten millimetres of rain is forecast for Warwick on Saturday morning, which will make the race a real test of stamina.
“We’ve been waiting to step him up in trip, and he will be suited by the conditions.”
Point winner Adrimel has certainly left the impression this winter a stiffer test of stamina would play to his strengths when successful over 2m at Haydock and Sandown.
His most ardent fans will consider him to be ‘still unbeaten’ because a test of speed in a championship Cheltenham Festival bumper was never going to see Adrimel shine.
Lacey admitted: “Never in our wildest dreams did we think we could win it.” He will be adopting a totally different mind-set when Richard Johnson takes him to the start this time.
What they say
Alan King, trainer of Jay Bee Why
He had been absent for 11 months before making a winning return over this course and distance in December. I was surprised how well he won that day as I didn’t think he would be quite ready. We have had this race in mind since and his preparation has gone well.
Olly Murphy, trainer of Lord Of Kerak
He's not a bad horse at all and he's improving. He was a good winner on his last start and I think the step up in trip will suit him. I’m not sure there's as much between him and Adrimel as the betting suggests. I think we've improved a lot since they met at Sandown.
David Pipe, trainer of Make Me A Believer
It was a lovely performance last time at Cheltenham. This is a good race, but the step up in trip should suit him.
Dan Skelton, trainer of Midnight River
He's significantly better than he showed at Leicester. We were looking for somewhere to go between Cheltenham and Warwick, which has always been the priority with him. We're very happy with him. Leicester was just a stepping stone.
Ben Pauling, trainer of Optimise Prime
He's a lovely little horse. It's a big step up from two Hereford novice hurdles to a Grade 2, but he seems to only do what he needs to do in a race. I'm confident he'll run a big race.
Colin Tizzard, trainer of Oscar Elite
He's won two smaller races and done it very well both times. We'll find out how good he is.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Sending Love
He's better going left-handed and will love the ground. The sprint from the back of the second-last didn't suit him at Sandown.
Harry Fry, trainer of Pure Bliss
She'll love the conditions and the trip will suit. If we can pick up some valuable black type, we'll be delighted.
Reporting by Richard Birch
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