I was pleased to hear that Long Run scoped dirty and that it was nothing physical from that bad blunder he made in yesterday’s Charlie Hall. His consistency and attitude are rare and he’s still only 8. I don’t think he has gone downhill in the way his mark suggests – he was simply overrated on the two big races he won back to back.
In his King George in 2011, he met a sick Kauto Star, a two mile four horse in Riverside Theatre, then the usual suspects – Nacarat, Planet of Sound etc. He went up 17lbs for that, then three more were added when he ran down a pair in the Gold Cup who’d exhausted themselves battling from three out off a pace that had been hot throughout – SWC arguably outrode the pros that day. Remember too, that the second fav, Imperial Commander, pulled up (bled & lame).
He’s never been a 182 horse for my money. His mark now, 171, is about as good as he’s ever been, though I’d maybe allow a couple of pounds deterioration and put that down to very tough races. The Battle of the Somme he had in winning the 2012 KG would have finished quite a few horses. He’s hellish tough, though I’d find it hard to believe these constant challenges at the top level haven’t taken something out of him.
For me, he is what he’s always been; an out and out stayer. Against top class opposition he needs the desperate ground he got in the KG last year (worst going in the race since 1937), or hara-kiri performances by the other jocks in setting an unsustainable pace. In a fairly run Grade 1 on reasonable ground at 24 to 26 furlongs, he simply hasn’t got the pace at the business end.
As for Harry Topper – there’s a horse with an engine. He travelled farther than everything else in the race yesterday, walked through one fence, clattered a few more and pulled some double-jointed moves to stay upright. He looks as honest as you could wish for and if he can regain his confidence, he’d be a threat at the top level.
He was on the deck in his final two outings last season and went at many of the fences yesterday with obvious trepidation. I think an extreme close-up might have shown him shutting his eyes on take-off and hoping for the best!
K Bailey has a job on his hands in rebuilding this horse’s belief in himself, but if he achieves it, HT would be a very lively Gold Cup outsider. And if his jumping doesn’t get better, oddly enough, he’d be tailor-made for the National. With the cores gone from those fences now (thankfully), HT would just barrel his way through the loose spruce. And if Long Run were mine, that’s where he’d be going next year. I’d miss the Gold Cup and send him to Aintree. Ninety nine percent of his errors are at his back end, and he’d just pull the spruce down and stay forever. And guess which jockey currently has the best strike rate over the National fences?