Cheltenham Festival 2011: Hendo horse owes me one after ending my Long Run

Lee Sobot.
Lee Sobot.
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THE big one, the Gold Cup, awaits but it’s arguably a race that hasn’t experienced the mega-hype build up of previous years, writes Lee Sobot.

Not that it will make victory any less sweet, a victory that Long Run can land to cement his place as the best chaser around (3.20pm Cheltenham).

There is one, possibly two, slight niggles about Long Run’s chances – one being his dodgy record at Cheltenham and two the presence of his amateur pilot, Sam Waley-Cohen.

But it could pay to take both with a pinch of salt, especially with odds of 5-1 on offer.

Long Run’s poor Cheltenham record is much discussed and it’s true that the horse has never won at Prestbury Park but, at the end of the day, he has only had two attempts and both times he was a creditable third.

True, on both occasions more was expected but it’s not like he fell or bombed out.

And as for jockey Waley-Cohen, while he might not be a Ruby Walsh or Tony McCoy, there was nothing wrong with his ride on the selection in the King George. In fact, it was exemplary.

And it is on the basis of that brilliant run that Long Run is put up as the selection.

That race will long be remembered personally as the one that denied us a record-equalling 13th consecutive winning nap with Kauto Star trailing in a disappointing third.

But absolutely nothing would have beaten Long Run who won in awesome fashion, beating Riverside Theatre by 12 lengths.

That horse has bolted up since so the form looks rock solid and it might just be that Long Run is only now fully maturing and getting used to life in Britain.

He is still a relatively new recruit from France and remember in his homeland he was rated around half a stone higher than Kauto Star.

That’s scarily impressive and we should also remember that Long Run is still basically a baby at six years old and no doubt still improving.

If Waley-Cohen can get him into a nice rhythm, and the same horse turns up as last time, then there is only one winner.

Reigning champ Imperial Commander is the most preferred of the rest as he has been there, done it and won the T-shirt.

There is plenty of confidence from the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard and ultimately he is the top-rated horse, so he certainly merits a saver, but the feeling is that Long Run might just improve past him now that the Commander is 10.

You could also see Pandorama going well for the Irish but I’m with Long Run all the way. Sod’s law Kauto will now go and bolt up!

We’ll make Long Run the nap but another very strong fancy is Baby Run in the Foxhunters Chase at 4pm.

This horse was responsible for getting the Gold Cup money back last year when winning the same race and a repeat showing looks on the agenda given his two bloodless victories this season, one of which came at Wetherby.

He quite clearly has the best form in the book and the presence of the very talented jockey Willie Twiston-Davies is another plus.

Baby Run is around a 7-2 shot but there are many who feel he should be more like 6-4, including At The Races presenter Matt Chapman who makes the horse his bet of the week.

Hopefully, one of Long Run and Baby Run do the business – if not both – because tomorrow’s other races look extremely hard with Unaccompanied the third best fancy in the opening Triumph Hurdle (1.30pm).

At the end of the day this mare has won both her races to date easily and might just be the class act in a mediocre field. Odds of 7-1 look very decent indeed.

Good odds will also be on offer if landing any of the other races tomorrow with Ski Sunday (2.05pm), Bobs Worth (2.40pm), Sire De Champs (4.40pm) and Anquetta (5.15pm) all holding good chances.

Anquetta is said to be jockey Andrew Tinkler’s best bet of the week while Ski Sunday still looks well-handicapped with the horse he beat last time, Skint, landing a big pot last weekend.

Hopefully skint is something we won’t be come half five!

Trainer Jessica Harrington watches Our Dukeat her Commonstown Stables in Moone, Ireland. PIC: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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