By Marc Owen-Banks ValueChecker
Long Run Considered a Serious Contender for the Gold Cup
After Riverside Theatre put in such a good display yesterday afternoon to justify favouritism and some decent sized bets at Ascot in the Grade 1 chase on the card, the form of Long Run has to be considered again when trying to decipher the most open Gold Cup in several years at Cheltenham.
One sad bit of news is that we wont be seeing Paul Nicholls' Pride of Dulcote in any race at the festival after he needed to be put down following a broken leg in the race at Ascot.
What the race has done though has ensured that the punter look closer at the form of Long Run after he beat Riverside Theatre by a solid and easy twelve lengths in the delayed King George IV at Kempton when eventually run 3 weeks after its traditional Boxing Day slot. That day he stayed on really well to beat his stable mate, and after a third in the RSA last season looks an ideal candidate to progress and be amongst the action come the finish at Cheltenham on the 18th March. A quick personal note that It's such a shame that we wont be seeing Weapons Amnesty in the race as I do hold a very tasty Ante post voucher for him for the race, struck after the RSA win in 2010.
Imperial Commander still holds favouritism, and just this morning I have begun to consider he is so obvious for the race, having no question marks over his form, and only the retention trends for the race being the sole negative in the run up, that he is being overlooked in favour of opposing him for the sake of opposing. He won the Betfair Chase in good style from Tidal Bay who has been rejuvenated and in doing so, got a mark of 168 on my numbers. That is below the 175 I have for Long Run from the KG, but as a seasonal bow, it cant be knocked.
What of the crowd pullers Denman and Kauto Star? Well Denman put in another amazing performance at Newbury in the Hennessey, giving tons of weight away all round to finish third and record a 175, the same as Long Runs King George mark, on that basis, he still has a chance, but at an age where improvement will not be expected, Long Run has to be favoured of the pair. Kauto Star was well beaten in the King George but is written off at the individuals peril, again a 175 recorded in the Champion Chase at Down Royal in November, beating off the likes of China Rock and Sizing Europe is a warning that he still holds ability. This though has to be a dream rather than an expectation.
Diamond Harry was pulled up and didn't complete the RSA at last years festival, and whilst winning the Hennessey at Newbury did so off possible a weak handicap mark. On level weights here, it is suggested he will have to find quite some improvement to figure.
Willie Mullins Kempes is next in the market, a best priced 16/1 with Victor Chandler . He ran a blinder in the Hennessey Gold Cup at Leopardstown, but has never faced the fences at Cheltenhamm previously, although he has raced at the course, over hurdles, in the Supreme Novices hurdle in 2009. China Rock was well beaten at Leopardstown, and Joncol accounted for too, so a decent performance of around 167 and maybe his price is a little on the long side. Again, will need to improve to win the race, but of an age to do so.
Still no outstanding choice, as Imperial Commander will be a bigger price come the day, and some more thought to the challengers has to be given. But with Riverside Theatre's performance yesterday, I can see punters, looking to oppose Kauto, Denman and last year's winner, may have an obvious alternative in Long Run at 13/2
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