Sport in Brief: Welcome tonic for Walsh as title defence looms


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The Independent Online

At the 10th time of asking since his comeback from injury, Ruby Walsh completed his rehabilitation with a win at Sandown yesterday, a timely tonic three days before the Cheltenham Festival, writes Sue Montgomery.

Walsh, who is favourite – albeit an uneasy one, challenged in the market by Barry Geraghty – to retain his title at this week's meeting, cruised home on Paul Nicholls-trained Mon Parrain in the three-mile handicap. "That was just the job," said the Irishman. "It's a relief to get a win on the board, but to be fair I've not ridden many I should have won on since I started back. You're actually only as good as the horses you ride." Mon Parrain was his first success since The Nightingale at Down Royal on 6 November, the day he broke both bones in his right leg; he will be in action again today at Navan. Alarazi, who beat Via Galilei comfortably in Sandown's feature, the Imperial Cup, will on Friday chase the £75,000 bonus offered for a follow-up win at Cheltenham by the sponsors Paddy Power. "He's in both the County Hurdle and the conditional jockeys' race that day," said winning trainer Lucy Wadham. "Though I'd prefer the County, he may not get in."

Defending champion Imperial Commander heads the 15 left in the Gold Cup at yesterday's penultimate entry stage, with no surprise omissions. But one of the leading Ryanair Chase fancies, Irish raider Tranquil Sea, was ruled out yesterday after an unsatisfactory scope.

American Football: NFL opts for lock-out

The NFL announced a lock-out by team owners after the players' union decided to dissolve and pursue action against the league in the courts. The main sticking point was the distribution of $9bn (£5.6bn) in annual revenues. Players currently receive 60 per cent, which the owners see as too generous. The league takes $1.3bn for costs but they claim these have risen steeply since the previous deal was struck in 2006 and they now want $2.3bn. It is the first NFL labour stoppage since 1987, when replacement players were used during a strike.

Cycling: Wiggins heads for podium

Bradley Wiggins is heading for Britain's best finish in 15 years in Paris-Nice today after coming eighth in a gruelling, rain-soaked 215km stage won by Frenchman Rémy di Gregorio, writes Alasdair Fotheringham. The Sky rider is third overall which, if he doesn't crack on today's mountainous final stage starting and finishing in Nice, will equal Chris Boardman's podium in 1996.

Para-cycling: Kenny leads medal charge

Darren Kenny's C3 Individual Pursuit gold was one of seven British medals on the first day of the Para-Cycling Track World Championships in Montichiari, Italy. He edged out fellow Briton Shaun McKeown in a ride-off, Rik Waddon's bronze ensuring a clean sweep, while Neil Fachie and pilot Craig Maclean won the men's tandem kilo.