An interview with David Pipe

In an exclusive interview top racehorse trainer David Pipe shares his secrets to success, his thoughts on the new whipping restrictions, and how it’s all about the confidence. Rosie Parry reports: 

In an unassuming camel brown waterproof jacket, cream trousers and brown loafers you would have no idea that you were standing in front of one of the top racehorse trainers in the country.

Not only is David Pipe the son of Martin Pipe CBE, the most successful racehorse trainer in British history, he is also the trainer of 100 racehorses himself and in 2007/08 claimed prize money of almost £2.5 million.

His modesty was extremely humbling as he discussed on a very wet but exciting day at Fontwell, the key lessons in training a horse to race.

“My father changed the way that jumping horses were trained, years ago it was long, slow and steady work and the horses were only half fit, nowadays they are trained in interval training – he came along and got horses fit.

“What makes one tick might not make another; it’s down to the trainer to work out what keeps them happy.”

And the fundamental factor in keeping the horse happy, he says, is health.

“If they’re healthy, they’re happy.”

Since taking over Pond House in Somerset from his father six years ago, David Pipe has more than 40 people working at the yard every day, which includes cutting-edge facilities such as a swimming pool, treadmills and a testing laboratory – just for the horses.

This dedication to the fitness and health of his horses has played a hugely influential role in David Pipe’s consistency in producing winners and being ranked second in the trainer’s championship table in 2008.

“You have to try and take the guesswork out of training, we take the temperature of each horse twice a day, every day, and we also test their blood in our laboratories – not many other trainers do this.”

Each racehorse in training is exercised daily for between an hour and a half and three hours whether it is on a horse walker, jumping, or on the extensive all-weather gallops.

Their diet is a mix of special performance nuts which they are fed up to three or four times a day, as well as a helping of hay twice a day.

However, success is not just in the preparation of the horse before the race, but also in the ability to keep it content at the race itself and this David Pipe says, is where understanding the horse becomes even more vital.

“Our three runners were brought here this morning by Bob Hodge, they left at 6am in order to settle in and relax.

“The ground is a key factor in making sure you put the horse in the right race. Good horses don’t race often, perhaps three or four times a year.

“Every owner wants to be in a big race on a Saturday to say ‘look at me’, but I prefer to be at Fontwell on a Friday say, so the horse gains confidence and once you get on a bandwagon you never know where it will take you.”  

When asked whether the restrictions on the number of times the jockey may whip the horse during the race set by the British Horseracing Authority would affect the way in which his horses were trained, David Pipe said:

“Like health and safety it’s gone stupid. It should be down to common sense, no-one wants to see a horse abused but no-one has said when a horse was last abused. They should come to the stable yard and see how they live in luxury.

“We will just have to try and make the horses even fitter.”

As he stood in the saddling box tacking up his handsome bay thoroughbred, Trop Fort, who was first to race and shaking with excitement, David Pipe warmly patted his neck.

He had certainly helped sway a sceptical mind about the world of horseracing that perhaps some people involved really do have the horse’s best interests at heart.

Perhaps it is in this way also that David Pipe will become just as influential and successful as his father.



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