Long Run jumps to Gold Cup glory
Long Run signalled the new dawn of steeplechasing by winning a thrilling renewal of the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup to give Nicky Henderson his first success in the race.
The race lived up to all of its billing as, with half a mile to go, three former champions, Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander, were all in a line.
But Long Run (7-2 favourite) had them in his sights and he jumped to the front at the last to win going away under amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen. Denman ran another gallant race to finish runner-up for a second consecutive year, while Kauto Star held off stablemate What A Friend for third.
The young French recruit Long Run only made his British debut in December 2009, when running amok in the Feltham Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. He followed up at Warwick but was unable to translate that form across into last season's RSA Chase at Cheltenham. Long Run was also considered in some quarters to be slightly disappointing on his seasonal debut in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham last autumn, in which he was third as the 2-1 favourite.
And even though he excelled in the King George, his two previous performances at Cheltenham led many to question his ability to handle the exacting Gloucestershire circuit. After moving ominously well at the top of the hill, such reservations were emphatically stricken from the record as Long Run became the youngest Gold Cup winner since Mill House struck in 1963.
The winning jockey said: "He's a whole lot better than I thought he was. That's a very special feeling and he's a very special horse. I want to say thank you to everyone for believing in me and the horse. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I didn't think we were going to get there, but he picked up, and I think he still had a bit left. When he got there he saw the crowd and he wanted to stop and have a look. What a horse he is."
Henderson added of Long Run's seven-length triumph: "It was a great race because all the horses have run great races - there's no disputing it. Kauto Star was probably at his best, but Long Run is a very good young horse. Sam gave him a beautiful ride. There was just a moment when I thought he needed a bit of daylight going down the hill, but he was very confident and he was very professional."
Perhaps surprisingly, the winning connections indicated Long Run may not be quite finished for the season.
Waley-Cohen snr said: "There's very few options left, but there's Aintree (totesport Bowl) and France."
Sam Waley-Cohen continued: "The two races in France he could run in would be the French Champion Hurdle and the Grand Steeple-Chase, both at Auteuil. We're going to have to have a think about it as we've had to work very hard to adapt his style to British racing."