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Reports13 April 2023

'I went a mile too soon' - self-critical Mark Walsh impressed with Zenta after narrow Grade 1 win

Zenta (left) posted a narrow victory over Bo Zenith in the Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle
Zenta (left) posted a narrow victory over Bo Zenith in the Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile HurdleCredit: Edward Whitaker

You do not reach the peak of your profession without being self-critical and Mark Walsh was certainly that after partnering Zenta to victory in the Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle – a success few will begrudge the rider after recent injury woes.

Walsh is the man trusted to ride leading owner JP McManus's string in Ireland, but he has struggled to get going this year after he hurt his ribs at Leopardstown over Christmas.

He battled back for the track's Dublin Racing Festival and won on Perceval Legallois, but a day later suffered fractures in his neck when Risk Belle fell.

That meant a rush back for the Cheltenham Festival and Walsh was rewarded with championship glory in the Stayers' Hurdle thanks to the McManus-owned Sire Du Berlais.

The jockey was left cursing his luck 24 hours later as Albert Bartlett favourite Corbetts Cross ran out, meaning his partner had to endure another spell on the sidelines. But since his latest return Walsh has flourished, recording five winners from 13 rides in Ireland.

He took that form into Aintree's Grand National meeting and finished second on Saint Roi in the first race of it before going one better on the Willie Mullins-trained Zenta. Patting himself on the back was the last thing on his mind, though.

His mount had cruised through the £110,000 Grade 1, but was all out to fend off Jamie Moore and Bo Zenith, while Nusret was third

"It was my own fault, she was in front a mile too soon," he said. "I thought I'd go by Jamie's horse fairly easily, but she's still novicey and green. 

"I went a mile too soon and should have waited a bit longer, but, luckily, she put her head down where it mattered."

Willie Mullins:
Willie Mullins: trainer of ZentaCredit: Alan Crowhurst

Betfair and Paddy Power went 12-1 (from 16) about the daughter of Pastorius, who was bred in France, winning the Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next year.

Last term, a dead-heat was initially called in this race, and Walsh, third on Zenta in the Triumph Hurdle on her last start, was unsure this time round.

"I honestly didn’t know if we had got there," he added. "I was asking Jamie and he didn't know either. If we'd have been beaten it would have been my own fault as I got her to the front too soon.

"She was travelling great and winged the last and I landed in front, so I sent her on. I couldn't really peg her back, but I know in future to hold on to her. She's still very green and still learning in front of a big crowd today, so I know a bit more about her now.

"She ran really well in the Triumph so she's taken a step forward today and Willie and [his assistant] David Casey have done a grand job with her."

Some might say that about Walsh too, even if he was not convinced.

Read these next:

'He's a special horse' - sixth straight Grade 1 win for star Constitution Hill in Aintree Hurdle 

'The King George is the obvious race for him' - Shishkin shows his class to reel in Ahoy Senor 

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James BurnLambourn correspondent

Published on 13 April 2023inReports

Last updated 17:45, 13 April 2023