Owner Robert Waley-Cohen is unworried by the prospect of testing conditions for Long Run’s seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Chase today.
The Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old has his first start since finishing third in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March, but the ground at Haydock is likely to be demanding.
“The ground is what we’ve anticipated all week and I think we just have to press on and hope they all handle it,” said Waley-Cohen. “It’s going to be fresh ground on Saturday and it’s going to be the same for us all.”
Waley-Cohen believes Long Run is in better shape than he was for his Haydock comeback 12 months ago, when he finished second to Kauto Star. He said: “I think Long Run is a bit more forward than he was going into the race last year and he is certainly more mature, physically and mentally. He is a Gold Cup winner and perhaps last season was a little disappointing, but there are a number of factors which contributed to that.
“He was a six-year-old and still growing and he came up against Kauto Star at his brilliant best in this race. He’s running against good horses on Saturday and they don’t just give Grade Ones away, but we’re very much looking forward to it.”
Long Run will again be partnered by the owner’s son, Sam Waley-Cohen, who said: “There are some great horses in the race. Seeing the young horses coming through like Silviniaco Conti is also one of the great bits of racing – the old established stars being taken on by the young pretenders and seeing who’s got what it takes. Competition at the top level is about heart and about mind.
“That transcends talent sometimes, and what we’ll see on Saturday is the horses that have the heart and mind are the ones that also want to show they’ve got the talent.”
The amateur rider admits Haydock is not the ideal track, adding: “It’s not, but at the same time you are short of options and it’s as good a place as any to go. It’s a course he can run well on and if you look back to last season you’d say he got beat by Kauto Star, the greatest horse of all time, but he beat the third, fourth and fifth in the betting for the Gold Cup. OK, it’s not his best course, but it’s not a bad course.”
The up-and-coming Silviniaco Conti has big shoes to fill following Kauto Star’s retirement as he is seemingly Paul Nicholls’ chief Gold Cup contender. Nicholls said: “The one thing about him is he jumps really, really well and he stays well, which is just what you need to go to a Gold Cup. Whether we’ll talk about going to the Gold Cup this season he’ll tell us, but the next logical step is the Betfair Chase.”
The Giant Bolster was one place ahead of Long Run in last season’s Gold Cup, but trainer David Bridgwater is not confident of confirming the form. Trainer Donald McCain hopes Weird Al can yield an even better result than his third-placed finish here last season. The nine-year-old appears to run his best races after a break, as he showed when winning last year’s Charlie Hall. “He seems in great nick at the moment,” said McCain.
Cannington Brook has a mountain to climb on official ratings, but is two from two at Haydock and loves heavy ground. The field is completed by Wayward Prince, who ran to his best when second in the Charlie Hall, his first start since being trained by his owner Hilary Parrott.
• Go Native suffered a fatal injury when breaking a leg on the gallops yesterday morning, said trainer Noel Meade. The nine-year-old was three times a Grade One winner and had looked back to his best this season following a long absence. Meade said: “We’re all in a state of shock at the moment. He was just doing a very steady canter.”