A stronger and taller Long Run exercised today in preparation for his return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 19 and Britain’s top chaser has his first schooling session of the season with Sam Waley-Cohen up at Yogi Breisner’s tomorrow.
Nicky Henderson could not be more happy with his 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.
The trainer said: “Long Run has grown an inch and is quite heavy at the moment. He is also quite laidback, which is good. Everything is cool. We have not woken him up in his work yet and I really need to get on the grass with him. “He will probably do plenty tomorrow in the schooling session. We all know he can gallop down and jump five fences in a row but he just needs to get the technique right.
“Long Run is nice and relaxed at the moment. He will get a change of scenery tomorrow because of his indoor session at Yogi’s and then in a couple of weeks he will jump five fences before going back to Yogi just ahead of the Betfair Chase. “It is just about getting his technique right – before last season there were plenty of doubters about whether his jumping was accurate and neat enough for English fences but the doubters have wilted a little bit after the King George and the Gold Cup but we have got to keep working at getting Long Run into our style of jumping fences and away from the French style.
“His jumping tends to be little bit French at times. Yogi is a big help to the horses and the jockeys. From Sam’s point of view it is a good session for him because he cannot be riding every day of the week. The horse has got a good attitude to life and so has Sam. Sam keeps fit and never seems to be under pressure going into any of these races – he takes it all in his stride. I think I am the one who lives on the pressure button. “I get asked the question, wouldn’t you love to have McCoy or Geraghty on the horse, and the answer is no. Long Run is Sam’s horse and he has done a brilliant job on him. Sam knows the horse very well.
“I like to think we will get on the grass on Saturday. The horses could just do with two bits of work on the grass. This weekend will be the first real test of our horses. We had a second yesterday at Haydock with Pippa Greene but he had been running all summer so that does not tell us anything. “We really haven’t run much. Of the new ones, I was pleased with Bear’s Affair at Aintree – A P said he thought Bear’s Affair would turn out to be the best horse in the race but he was still green – it was only his third jump race of his life.
”If the horses are behind, they are behind – we cannot push them. Long Run has been back here plenty of time – he came here straight from the field in early July. I think he had a good summer at Robert Waley-Cohen’s, with eight weeks of doing nothing. “I went to see Long Run three weeks before he came back here and I thought he was someone else when coming out of the stable. I nearly did not recognise him because he was considerably bigger and had grown quite a lot. Horses will go on growing but at six they should be getting to full maturity. If a horse has grown, he must be getting stronger. There should be more to come.
“I don’t know what that means but he is a fantastic-looking horse. He is a beautiful horse and it is quite nice when the form book follows the rule book that the correct good-looking horse that does look like a natural athlete is the natural athlete. “Long Run takes his races well – he soon bounces back. The pressure will be on us this season as he has to defend his crown.
“We want to start in the Betfair, which is a relatively new race, as it is ideally placed in the calendar before the King George. I want to win the Betfair and then the King George. He will be wound up the best we can but the horses might be a bit behind because of the dry weather we have had.”
Long Run’s schedule is the £200,000 Grade One Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, maybe Newbury’s AON Chase and then the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 16.
The trainer commented: “I hate looking further forward than one race at a time but if we wanted a race between the King George and the Gold Cup then the AON Chase would be the obvious one. There is a huge gap to Aintree this year (after the Cheltenham Festival) and that might be a target too (Betfred Bowl). “Long Run will remain at three miles and he proved he stays three and quarter in the Gold Cup last season so I don’t think he will be dropping back in trip for the Ryanair.
“It probably wasn’t the best decision to start him off in the Paddy Power last season – going flat out around Cheltenham over two and a half miles. As soon as he got back to three miles, it was so much easier for him to get into his comfort zone.”
Of the potential challengers to Long Run this season, Henderson is most afraid of Master Minded. “I cannot believe that was his form at Aintree last weekend and he would be the standout horse if taking to three miles. “Then there are horses like Wishfull Thinking. I am sure there will be plenty of horses ready to bounce out of the woodwork – it is never easy. We just have to concentrate on what we have to do – anything can go wrong at any minute and getting them there is half the battle.”
Long Run was one of 36 horses out with Henderson’s third lot this morning under regular work rider Nico de Boinville.