British Hunt Season Ends With Controversy

Britain's National Hunt season for 2004/2005 ended in rancor April 23 when trainer Martin Pipe was accused of jeopardizing the welfare of his horses in his attempt to win a 10th successive trainers' championship.

Pipe, who strongly denies the accusation, went into the final day of the season just £21,511 head of his nearest pursuer, Paul Nicholls, after both stables had produced a flurry of runners in the closing week. A big race win with the chaser Well Chief secured Pipe the title with earnings of £2, 827,074, which was £72,869 ahead of Nicholls' final tally.

But Pipe's efforts to ensure he retained his championship were described as "outrageous" by the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, whose spokesman David Muir was particularly concerned about Pipe running the same horse, Commercial Flyer, three days running. "It is outrageous a horse runs three days in a row. Owners and trainers must use common sense. We will bring up the issue with the Jockey Club formally," Muir said.

The Jockey Club, through its chief veterinary officer, Peter Webbon, has already indicated that it is to consider a ban on horses running consecutive days.

On the same Sandown card, Jockey Club vets singled out for attention another Pipe horse, Sindapour, who finished tailed off only 20 hours after having fallen in a handicap hurdle at Newton Abbot.

Sindapour was one of 10 entries--although only seven ran--that Pipe made for the Betfred 'The Bonus King' Handciap Hurdle. The fact that he had 10 overnight entries meant there was no room in the race for a fancied Paul Nicholls runner, The Persuader.

Pipe was perfectly entitled to run so many horses ahead of The Persuader in the handicap and no rules of racing were broken.