Bravery can win, in the Long Run
OWNER Robert Waley-Cohen has saluted the bravery of Long Run ahead of his bid to regain the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Cheltenham Racecourse chairman said the former champion showed courage under his son Sam when he fought back to win the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day for the second time in three years.
Now he is hoping Long Run shows his competitive spirit and class on Friday as he bids to turn the tables on his Haydock conqueror Silviniaco Conti and become only the second horse to win back the Gold Cup.
Waley Cohen said: "It was very heavy ground on his first run of the season at Haydock and we didn't want to get into a battle in that, though we'd have loved to have won it.
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"Silviniaco Conti was fresh from winning the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and, giving him credit, he ran extremely well at Haydock.
"But the race set Long Run up for the King George, and every year the King George and the Gold Cup are the two you want to win.
"It's always a tough race and there's no quarter asked or given.
"Long Run had a big battle with Champion Court from about five out and after seeing him off three out thought he'd got the race won, only to discover there was Captain Chris coming at him up the inner.
"As he came to the second-last you could see Long Run's were pricked and he was thinking, 'Job done, just two to get over', but Sam had to wake him up and tell him, 'You can't start idling here'.
"The horse showed how brave he is and how much courage he has by rallying from quite a long way behind Captain Chris at the last to beat him by half a length.
"I think people are starting to love him more as times goes on for his sheer courage and he's not making the jump mistakes that he made.
"He's not fault free but he's definitely jumping better than he used to."
Waley-Cohen believes the betting reflects Long Run's chances of emulating Kauto Star in 2009 and regaining the Gold Cup.
He is behind long-time favourite and stablemate Bobs Worth, Silviniaco Conti and Ireland's main challenger Sir Des Champs.
Waley-Cohen said: "Being realistic, he's fourth favourite and you've got to be impressed with Bobs Worth's win in the Hennessy, albeit receiving weight from Tidal Bay," he said.
"Silviniaco Conti has done nothing but impress all season.
"I can't quite evaluate Sir Des Champs.
"He finished last season as a superstar, this year he's not shone to the same extent, but we all know Willie Mullins will be aiming him for one race and one race only.
"There all entitled to be well fancied and we're fourth favourite, which is probably about right, though in a normal year you'd say a horse that has won the Gold Cup and has just won the King George would be shorter odds than 7-1."
Waley-Cohen believes Long Run wasn't at his best when he finished third behind Jonjo O'Neill's winner Synchronised and David Bridgwater's stable star The Giant Bolster in last year's Gold Cup.
He expected the eight-year-old to stamp his authority of the race when he challenged for the lead at the last fence.
Waley-Cohen said: "I thought his run in the Gold Cup last year was disappointing.
"You have only to be a tiny fraction below 100 per cent and it's not what you're hoping for.
"What the reason was for him to be just off 100 per cent we'll never know.
"I have to say that to finish third in a Gold Cup and feel disappointed is a luxury position to be in.
"But I can't get over that feeling that for some reason he didn't run as well as he's capable of running.
"The year before he bounded up the hill, but last year he was just flat.
"That's the only time The Giant Bolster, to take a line through him, has finished in front of him on four occasions, so I think that was a disappointing run."