All eyes on Long Run's Newbury warm-up
Published 17/02/2012 | 05:00
Rescheduled meetings rarely have the same impact on the racing public as the original, but today's Newbury card will come as close as any in living memory to replicating the planned day.
With the big Cheltenham attractions Long Run and Sprinter Sacre topping the bill, that should come as no surprise.
Despite expected much lower crowd figures, this fixture -- called off last Saturday because of the cold snap in Britain -- was a 'must-be-staged' as far as trainers with Cheltenham hopes were concerned.
The timing is perfect to get a run under the belt prior to the build-up to next month's Festival. It is crucial for so many.
And with free admission to the course today it is a great opportunity to see how the plans develop.
Defeat in today's Betfair Denman Chase would obviously be a blow to the Long Run camp, but it would not necessarily be catastrophic, unless, of course, something were to go amiss physically.
Last year's Gold Cup winner needs a strong pace to be seen at his best and it is questionable whether he will get that today.
It will be a good warm-up for Long Run's regular partner Sam Waley-Cohen to cope with circumstances that may not prove ideal.
In retrospect, he must know that the way Ruby Walsh slowed the tempo in the King George at Kempton Park was instrumental in Kauto Star winning, so how much use he makes of Long Run, considering that the gelding will not necessarily be at concert pitch, will be a talking point.
Nicky Henderson had been hoping to clarify plans for his Cheltenham novices when he embarked on a long journey to Kelso on Wednesday -- he came away with more questions than answers, despite his short-priced treble. However, he has a different agenda entirely with Sprinter Sacre in today's Betfair Super Saturday Chase, which was previously known as the Game Spirit Chase.
Barry Geraghty will be charged with the responsibility of allowing the six-year-old, the favourite for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham, to be his exuberant self, yet at the same time preventing him having a hard race -- if at all possible.
With Cue Card having dropped out after sustaining an injury, it is a less complicated task. Henderson also has the second favourite, Darlan, in the Betfair Hurdle, and whichever way you interpret the form lines, it seems this promising five-year-old will be an important member of JP McManus' formidable Cheltenham team.
This race, run in various guises over the years (the Schweppes, the Tote Gold Trophy, and now the Betfair), has always been a tough, competitive test, and so usually a reliable provider of Festival clues.
Keep your notebooks handy. (©Daily Telegraph, London)