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Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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By Dylan Jenear ValueChecker

Binocular and Long Run Stake Cheltenham Claims

Despite Saturday’s card at Kempton being star-studded in equine terms, there was one star that most of the huge crowd that descended on to the Sunbury venue wanted to see shine: Kauto Star. However, Paul Nicholls’ brilliant chaser failed to eclipse Desert Orchid’s record of four victories in the King George VI Chase.

Long Run

Long Run

The gelding was awesome when equalling Dessie’s feat when coming home in splendid isolation in last season’s renewal, but a fifth consecutive victory in the Grade 1 contest was a bridge too far. It wasn’t to be. Every cloud has a silver lining, though. And the silver lining in the rescheduled King George was the emergence of another potential star in the shape of Long Run.

Perhaps it was a sign that age is catching up with Kauto Star, who is now 11. Indeed, the dual Gold Cup hero could not live with the fresher legs of six-year-old Long Run, who was turned over on his reappearance in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham but jumped and travelled supremely well at Kempton, and powered clear in the home straight to come home 12 lengths ahead of stablemate Riverside Theatre, with a tired-looking Kauto Star, who almost unseated Tony McCoy at the second-last, back in third.

Long Run, who was registering Nicky Henderson’s fifth victory of the afternoon at the meeting and proving amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen with the biggest success of his career, is now generally a 6-1 chance for the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, while Kauto Star is out to around the 8-1 mark. Last year’s winner Imperial Commander heads the market for jump racing’s blue riband event.


Earlier in the day Henderson’s champion hurdler Binocular confirmed that he will be very much the one to beat at Cheltenham in March when scooting clear of Overturn and Starluck in the William Hill-sponsored Christmas Hurdle.

Disappointing behind Peddlers Cross on his return to action in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, Binocular was a different proposition on Saturday, jumping with pinpoint accuracy and only needing to be pushed out to seal a treble on the card for Tony McCoy. The seven-year-old is now as short as 11-4 to retain his crown in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Festival, with Ireland’s Hurricane Fly next best at around the 9-2 mark and Menorah generally a 5-1 chance.


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