The Pipe family stable warmed up for this week's Cheltenham Festival by taking yesterday's £70,000 Imperial Cup at Sandown. Baltimore Rock was trainer David Pipe's third winner of the two-mile handicap hurdle, following six for his father, Martin, but a first for rider Tom Scudamore, whose own father, Peter, won it twice. "It's about time I did win one of these," the stable jockey said after steering the 7-1 shot to a length success.
There is generally a bonus prize for an Imperial Cup winner who can follow up at Cheltenham, but yesterday's sponsors, William Hill, could be saved a payout of a further £100,000 as Baltimore Rock may not make the cut for the County Hurdle, his only entry.
The field for Friday's Gold Cup will be finalised on Wednesday, but for the moment 17 remain in contention, headed by last year's winner and favourite, Bobs Worth, trained by Nicky Henderson, and his market rival Silviniaco Conti, from Paul Nicholls's yard. Henderson will be double-handed, with Triolo D'Alene also among yesterday's declarations, but Silviniaco Conti's stablemate Rocky Creek was ruled out with ringworm. Ireland's challenge was boosted by Willie Mullins's On His Own, supplemented at a cost of £27,500.
The sport, though, was put in perspective by the reason for the news Tony McCoy will not ride again before the Festival – his 19th – opens on Tuesday. He will spend today and tomorrow in hospital with his infant son Archie, who underwent heart surgery on Friday.