Racing: Walsh and Cenkos defy all the odds

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Overweight and unexpected, Cenkos left Paul Nicholls puzzling after he surprised everyone to score on his first run since May in the Beards Jewellers Cup here yesterday. The outsider of the five runners, Cenkos thrived for the front-running tactics employed by Ruby Walsh and showed considerable resolution when challenged by his stablemate Kadarann on the run-in. The pair finished 20 lengths clear of the favourite, Latalomne, while Wahiba Sands, brought down by the fall of Tysou at the second-last fence, was remounted by Tony McCoy to finish fourth.

"It's surprising because he is 10 kilos heavier than when he won the Tingle Creek last year," Nicholls said, "and we were pretty sure that he'd need the run. It's good to have Ruby back and he gave him a great ride."

The strength in depth among Nicholls's two-mile chasing team now forces him to run them against each other in the Tingle Creek Trophy at Sandown in three weeks' time. "There aren't really many options for us so we will have to run Cenkos, Le Roi Miguel and Azertyuiop in the Tingle Creek," he said.

Self Defense, the country's best maiden hurdler, set the record straight with a gutsy win on his first appearance of the campaign. With Tony McCoy cutting out a savage gallop on Contraband, the men were sorted from the boys in the howling gale and by the second-last flight Self Defense looked sure to score. However, Albuhera, who had progressed from off the pace, delivered a spirited challenge which saw him hit the front at the last. Self Defense rallied to lead in the final strides.

"What was pleasing was the way in which he travelled - exactly what he wasn't doing last year," Emma Lavelle, Self Defense's trainer, said. "His aim will be the Champion Hurdle." Paddy Power quote Self Defense at 40-1 for the Champion. "That's not very generous, he was 100-1 last year," said Lavelle.

Walsh, rider of Albuhera, picked up a three-day ban for using his whip in an incorrect place. A one-day ban was given for the same offence to Paul Carberry, who finished second on Royal County Buck to Ceanannas Mor in the Paddy Power Chase.

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