Racing: Count on Walsh to reach new heights with Monte Cinto

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The Independent Online

Sandown Carries the torch for British racing today, as Haydock, the other televised card, seems to have gone all camera shy. Just 16 runners line up for the three screened races in Lancashire and if there is a formula to frighten away Channel 4 then Haydock seems to have found it.

Sandown Carries the torch for British racing today, as Haydock, the other televised card, seems to have gone all camera shy. Just 16 runners line up for the three screened races in Lancashire and if there is a formula to frighten away Channel 4 then Haydock seems to have found it.

Esher is different. Their four races are a compelling blend of quality and quantity, each a great reason to either get there or plump up the cushions. Finding winners, though, looks abnormally scary.

Most frightening of all is the Listed Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle, which has already been the vehicle for several reported punts this week. None was more dramatic than the plunge on Gary Moore's Rob Leach, The eight-year-old has won over course and distance, but that was some time ago. His recent Fontwell success, after a 752-day absence, was conducted in a seller, yet none of these factors appear to have distressed his trainer.

"It is a very, very competitive race but I do think the horse has got a serious chance," Moore said yesterday. "He is a course-and-distance winner, will love the ground and I think it is important that you have a low weight in these races - which he has. He's worked very well and I am very pleased with him. This is a race we have had in mind for a while." It is not an off-putting assessment.

Martin Pipe sends out his usual magazine of runners, of which Escompteur appears to be the main bullet, but even the champion trainer believes the one to beat is MONTE CINTO (nap 3.10), who will be saddled by his county neighbour and perennial rival, Paul Nicholls. Now that the ex-French horse has learned that it does not all have to be done in one breath he has turned into an increasingly formidable machine. He is young and he has course form. With the brilliant Ruby Walsh in the saddle, he is the selection.

Something has to give in the Tolworth Hurdle, which features the first three in the betting for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival, as well as eight out of nine horses which have won their previous race.

Marcel and Astronomic have met before, at Haydock, where the former's winning run came to an end. The composition and style of the race did not suit Marcel, however, and he could turn that form round. But then there are the others.

Made In Montot, who gave Marcel weight and a beating in France, makes his debut for Nicholls, Philip Hobbs's Chilling Place puts his unbeaten record on the line, while It's Just Harry, from the Charlie Egerton yard, has yet to be headed this season.

Yet there is still one left over. It is a theory with much evidence that horses get ruined by running in the Triumph Hurdle. Wild Passion (next best 2.35) found a way round that by falling over before the race had really got started last March.

Once again he is sent to a foreign field by Noel Meade this afternoon, in search of decent ground, and this former German Group Three winner on the Flat brings Paul Carberry with him. He has proved to be a useful travelling companion to British shores.

Back in the homeland tomorrow, it looks as if it will be a dreadful slog for the Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown. Arthur Moore has won this most competitive of races six times and his entry is now down to Mansony, who has been nibbled at in the market this week.

So has Tony Mullins's Tuppenny Cody, but the one which will carry the greatest weight of money is Essex (2.20), the former Sir Michael Stoute inmate who makes his seasonal hurdling debut.

He, too, comes with fulsome references. "He ran well in the Irish Cesarewitch and won it nicely," Michael O'Brien, the trainer, said yesterday. "It looks good form as well, with Solerina being in behind, and if he can transfer that to hurdles he must have a good chance."

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