The Long Run to Enter Cheltenham’s History Books Begins Here 22/03/11
Any remaining doubts concerning the ability of the Nicky Henderson trained, Long Run and his amateur jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen were well and truly cast aside when the outstanding six year old won the most prestigious prize in National Hunt racing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, becoming the first six year old to do so since the great Mill House in 1963.
The win followed on from his success at Kempton in January when landing the King George Chase, National Hunt Racing’s second highest chasing prize, ended the great Kauto Star’s record of four successive wins in the race at the same time. The prestigious ‘King George & Gold Cup double’ has been achieved in the past, with horses of the calibre of Kauto Star, Kicking King, Best Mate, See More Business and Desert Orchid also winning both races in the same season.
Long Run however is the first six year old to ever achieve the feat, although Mill House did win both in 1963, but that was in two separate seasons, and had the King George been ran on its scheduled date on Boxing Day, Long Run would have become the first five year old to have won the race.
The success of Long Run’s double clearly begs the question of how great can he actually become, given his achievements and age thus far set him up to possibly be the greatest chaser ever. If that becomes fact, then Long Run has only just begun his journey to ‘superstardom’ and bookies Cleary rate his chances with William Hill already offering just 11/2 to repeat that double again next season.
The Gold Cup win was also a ‘first’ for Long Run’s trainer, Nicky Henderson; it was also a first for Sam Waley-Cohen, amateur jockey and son of the horse’s owner, Robert Waley-Cohen. The booking of an amateur for such a prestigious race opened up a huge debate on whether the jockey was really up to the task, but he proved himself beyond any doubt to be up there with the best and there are no plans in the future to replace him.
The Waley-Cohen’s in fact paid for extra jumping tuition for Long Run ahead of the Gold Cup attempt, hiring the services of show jumping expert, Yogi Breisner. It was a booking that clearly paid dividends, with Long Run far more able to concentrate on his jumping, particularly after making one or two early mistakes. He also made a mistake four from home but showed remarkable tenacity under Waley-Cohen to get back into the battle, which at the time looked like being a straight fight between Kauto Star and Denman.
However, by the time they were running to the last, Long Run had got himself into the lead and with a cracking jump at the last stole a march on the two old stablemates and former Gold Cup champions, Deman and Kauto Star, who had to settle for second and third respectively, with a third Nicholls horse What A Friend, running on strongly to be fourth and now heading to Aintree for the Grand National.
Future plans for the new champion currently remain fluid, but he is likely to run once more this season, which will be either at Aintree or even in France where the Prix Murat or the Grand Steeple Chase of Paris are very valuable targets. His targets next season will clearly be centred on the King George and Gold Cup, with the Grade One Betfair Chase in November likely to be his seasonal reappearance.
The Gold Cup win has earned Long Run an Official rating of 179 which the owners believe will be raised mush higher over the next couple of years, possibly making him the most highly rated NH horse since Arkle in the 1960’s.
At the age of just six, the future looks bright for Long Run with more improvement surely to come for age and with the demise of some leading chasers in this division due to age, it will take a special horse to topple his chances of winning again at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival. Whether he is good enough to be ranked alongside the likes of Arkle or even stand a chance of surpassing Golden Miller’s five wins in the Gold Cup in the 1930s, only time will tell but he’s got plenty of time to make his mark and could surpass all previous records by the age of 10!
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