Long Run can make fans jump for joy with clear round
WITH Imperial Commander ruled out of the Betfair Chase (3.05 Haydock) due to injury, one would have expected Long Run to be red-hot in the betting.
However, that just hasn't been the case and punters have deserted Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old this week in favour of the new kid on the block, Paul Nicholls' Silviniaco Conti.
While Long Run is still most likely to go off as favourite, it seems quite bizarre to see his price as big as 13/8 in places considering he's 10lb clear of the field on official ratings and 13lb clear according to Timeform.
In my eyes, that price is huge and I've yet to hear a strong reason from his opponents as to why he should be avoided. The arguments put forward for opposing him mainly focus on the fact that he won just one race last season – the Denman Chase at Newbury.
But let's not forget that he won the King George and Gold Cup in 2010-11 and while Kauto Star put him firmly in his place last year, he's still relatively young and should not be written off after one or two questionable performances.
It's been pointed out that he doesn't have a great record when fresh, but the word from the yard is that they are getting a different feel for him this time around and as long as he keeps his jumping mistakes to a minimum, he'll almost certainly be thereabouts.
Looking at his more recent races, his style seems to be getting closer to a stayer as he matures, so three miles in soft to heavy ground might actually prove advantageous.
If I were in charge, I'd get amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen to hunt him around the sharp course as best he can and let him take his time approaching the fences.
Silviniaco Conti put in a fantastic round of jumping in the Charlie Hall Chase and it's important that Long Run doesn't lose too much ground by crashing through any obstacles.
Nicholls' horse is fairly unexposed and on his novice form he looks extremely promising. But even considering Long Run's flaws, Silviniaco Conti still has a good lot to make up and I think he needs some more big-race experience before we see him hit the big time.
The rest of the field make it an intriguing race. The Giant Bolster finished ahead of Long Run in this year's Gold Cup, while Donald McCain's Weird Al has been kept rested with this race in mind.
American Spin defied a 7lb rise to win an 18-runner handicap in May and I'm still not convinced the handicapper has him in his grip. He finished mid-division in a similar race at Cheltenham last month but it was his first run of the season and it will have helped get him back in shape. He's as tough as nails and odds of 12/1 for the Betfair 'Fixed Brush' Handicap Hurdle (2.30, Haydock) appear a little generous.
11.40 Lingfield: Dream About You
2.30 Haydock: American Spin (e/w)
2.45 Ascot: Oscar Whisky
3.05 Haydock: Long Run
* Last week's winners: Al Ferof (8/1), Money Spider (4/6), Far West (15/8).
* Last week's each-way selection, Cross Kennon, was second at 16/1.