Long Run 'in good nick' for Haydock
Long Run may have a tall reputation as a very smart King George and Gold Cup winner, but there appears to be no shortage of opposition when he makes his reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
Apart from missing a couple of prominent Irish horses and Denman, the seventh running of the Betfair Chase in its current form is not only the best renewal so far, you could almost pass it off for the Gold Cup with Kauto Star, Weird Al, Time For Rupert, Diamond Harry, Nacarat, Pure Faith and Rubi Light all possible runners.
Sam Waley-Cohen was sporting a black eye at Cheltenham on Saturday, the result of Long Run's head bashing him in the face twice, before and after schooling over fences on Nicky Henderson's training grounds last Friday, and the jockey will be keen to get the gelding's season under way.
"Enough chat," he said yesterday, "time for action now. He had his last session with Yogi Briesner in the indoor school this morning and was very good. We are going into it thinking he is in pretty good nick.
"He was just a bit fresh on Friday and maybe my moustache tickled his ears. I'm quite glad Grands Crus was taken out of the race, though it might have been in the deep end a bit for him at this stage. Otherwise it doesn't look unlike a Gold Cup."
Reflecting on Long Run's first effort last year, when he was beaten in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, Waley-Cohen put it down to the form of Henderson's horses at the time rather than it being a lack of fitness first time out.
"They weren't running well this time last year," he said. "I haven't seen the statistics but they looked to be running all right to me at the weekend."
Paul Nicholls implied that if his dual Gold Cup winner Kauto Star, which has won three of the six runnings of the Betfair, is going to roll back the years and beat Long Run it will be first time out.
"He's going to love the dry forecast," said the trainer. "He's in great shape, looks amazing and is working really well. I've got a feeling he'll run a big race.
"You don't tend to have Gold Cup winners hard fit for their reappearance and that gives us all hope that Long Run can be beaten. Kauto Star will not fail through lack of fitness."
Jim Dreaper made a little piece of history yesterday when his Shernaz became the first Irish-trained winner at Plumpton. The eight-year-old followed up last month's Tramore win with a comfortable victory in a novices handicap chase under Richie McGrath.
"There aren't many low-grade races in Ireland at this time of year," said Dreaper's son Tom. "He could stay and carry a penalty at Towcester on Sunday."
Elsewhere, Longford trainer Paul Flynn may put Moon Dice away until the spring following his unlucky effort in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Flynn is keen to return to Cheltenham in March after his Galway Hurdle winner got stopped in his run before finishing strongly to take fourth place behind Brampour on Sunday.
Flynn felt the ground did not suit Moon Dice and believes he will be better in the latter stages of the campaign -- although if conditions were right he might be tempted to run the six-year-old at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting.
"I think ideally he wants better ground," Flynn said. "It was a little bit sticky for him on Sunday. The ground in March will suit him a lot better and he'll go back to Cheltenham for something."
As expected Workforce, last year's Derby and Arc winner, has been retired. He will stand at stud in Japan. Khalid Abdullah's colt won four of his nine races and £3.2m in prize money.