New king of Cotswolds emerges after thrilling clash for the ages
Long Run fulfilled all of his immense potential yesterday by delivering a breathtaking performance to beat Denman and Kauto Star in a thrilling renewal of the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Run in glorious sunshine, the Grade One threw up a spectacle that is sure to go down in history as a race for the ages, with Denman and Kauto Star recapturing all of their old magic to enthral the Prestbury Park crowd by going toe-to-toe as the race unfolded in earnest inside the last mile.
However, the six-year-old Long Run, under his 28-year-old amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen, confirmed the new order that he first established by toppling Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase in January.
Waley-Cohen, the first amateur to win the race since 1981, had tracked Ruby Walsh's every move on the former dual winner Kauto Star.
As Walsh looked for Kauto Star's trademark kick off the final bend, the response just wasn't there anymore, and Long Run, the 7/2 favourite, led after the second-last to win going away by seven lengths.
Denman stayed on the better of the two old stagers to be second, maintaining a record that has seen him finish either first or second at six successive Festivals.
It was an incredible race that lived up to its pre-race billing as a mouth-watering clash of the generations, with Long Run's success a first for his age group since Mill House 1963.
It was also a first triumph in jump racing's showpiece event for trainer Nicky Henderson, who had begun the week mired in controversy after his surprise withdrawal of the Champion Hurdle favourite Binocular on Sunday morning.
Speaking afterwards, an ecstatic Waley-Cohen, whose father Robert owns the horse, said: "This is a very emotional moment.
"The horse jumped awesomely and was very brave.
"I asked him a lot of questions and he answered them all.
"It's a surreal moment -- some-times achieving your dreams is difficult to comprehend."
While Pandorama, China Rock and Kempes failed to shine in the Gold Cup, Irish-trained horses won three further races to bring the raiders' haul for the week to a record-breaking 13.
Willie Mullins saddled Final Approach and Sir Des Champs to record two last-gasp victories in the County Hurdle and conditional jockeys' race.
With four winners in all, he ended the week as leading trainer, the first Irish-based handler to hold that honour since Edward O'Grady shared the plaudits with Ferdy Murphy and Martin Pipe (with just two winners apiece) in 1996.
Walsh, who shaded a head-bobbing finish over Tony McCoy on Get Me Out Of Here to win on Final Approach, secured the riders' title for a sixth time with five winners.
Sir Des Champs, a heavily-supported 9/2 favourite, also came through late to collect under Mullins' nephew Emmet, who was riding a first winner at the meeting.
"He was never really travelling," the clearly delighted rider reported afterwards, "and I was trying to keep him together down the back.
"I think he must have made up around 25 lengths up coming down the hill, and then took a blow before the last, but he picked up again."
In the previous Foxhunters' Chase, Zemsky took advantage of the exit of long-time leader Baby Run at the second last to give Ian Ferguson his second Festival winner following Another Rum's 2005 National Hunt Chase triumph.
He was ridden to victory by the seven-time point-to-point champion Derek O'Connor, who had won this year's NH Chase on Chicago Grey on Wednesday.