Former champion trainer Martin Pipe is full of admiration for Dan Skelton’s feat in reaching the landmark total of 200 winners in the National Hunt season.
Skelton notched up his double century with six winners on Easter Sunday, sending out two victors at Plumpton before Montego Grey completed a four-timer for the team at Market Rasen – chalking up the key success in the process.
Record-breaker Pipe is the only other jumps trainer to have managed the feat – doing it eight times in all – and knows better than most the skill, determination, tenacity and little helping of luck that is needed along the way to achieve it.
Pipe retired in 2006 having been crowned champion trainer 15 times and the winner of 4,183 races, including two Champion Hurdles and the Grand National.
“Winners are what this game is all about and he’s doing very well. What he does best is run his horses in the right races,” Pipe told Press Association Sport.
“Dan gets his horses very fit and they’ve been running well all season long. They’ve been ridden very well as well, Harry is riding at the top of his game and they make a very good team.
“Obviously Nick (Skelton, father) was at the top of the tree in showjumping for many years and it seems both Dan and Harry have inherited that competitive spirit.”
Since Pipe first achieved the notable milestone in the 1988-89 season, the fixture list has expanded exponentially, offering a lot more opportunities – but Pipe says that should not detract from the achievement.
“Jump racing is all year round and there are more meetings now which means more opportunities – but make no mistake, training 200 winners is a marvellous feat,” said Pipe.
“I think the biggest change, actually, has been the invention of the internet. When I started we had to do the entries three weeks in advance, it took a lot of planning. I used to have to take the form book to bed with me!
“I never set out to train 200 a year, I just wanted as many as I could. My first target was always 100, which was a great achievement, I thought.
“Looking at my records I had 106 winners in 1986-87 then the following season 129, then in 1988-89 it went up to 208. We then managed to get to 200 four times in a row.”
Pipe led the way in adopting new techniques and was one of the first trainers to start blood testing his string on a regular basis, which he believes was one of the major building blocks to his success – along with great staff.
He went on: “You need a lot of things in your favour, you need to keep the horses sound and healthy and the weather needs to be on your side, of course.
“We always had a few bugs about, but it is about how you control it and that was where our laboratory helped. I think it certainly helped us.
“You’ve got to have terrific staff, otherwise it won’t work. You need to trust your head lad and assistants – and jockeys. It’s a huge team effort, you’re only as good as your staff – and horses, of course.”