Long Run can prove that he’s the real deal

AFTER spending two days trying to find a horse to beat Nicky Henderson’s LONG RUN in tomorrow’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, I have now finally given up.

The French bred five-year-old is the apple of his trainer’s eye and set pulses racing with a breathtaking debut over fences in the Feltham at Kempton on Boxing Day last year. He wasn’t foot perfect that day, but proved he has stamina and serious class.

He handled the drop back to two miles at Warwick on his next start and then ran a brave third to Weapon’s Amnesty in the RSA Chase at the Festival. That last test unquestionably came too early in his career and each time I watch a replay of the race, the more impressed I am at how well he actually ran.

The key question has to be how good Long Run is and more importantly, how good could he be? If he turns out to be the next Kauto Star, as many pundits are suggesting, then he is absolutely thrown in here off a handicap mark of just 158. If he really is that good, he may end this season on a mark closer to 180.

Therefore, at 10/3 with the sponsors, he just has to be a bet. Put simply, if they ran the race three times, I’d expect him to win on more than one occasion. Yes, the hurly burly nature of a 20-runner Cheltenham handicap may not be ideal, but his class should see him through and rain-softened ground is ideal.

His stablemate Mad Max is respected, while Festival Plate winner Great Endeavour looks to be on a handy mark. However, I’ll be having an each-way saver on Paul Nicholls’ POQUELIN who loves it round here and has genuine Grade One form in the book. He is available at 14/1 with Paddy Power and will be spot on for this after his recent Aintree pipe opener. If the rain stays away it is hard to see him out of the frame, particularly as the handy Ian Popham takes off a valuable 5lbs.

There’s an excellent card to kick off the Paddy Power meeting this afternoon and Garde Champetre will be going for a remarkable sixth Cheltenham cross country success. He’s the new Spot The Difference, but will be priced accordingly and ran poorly at the Festival. He’s the most likely winner but I’m going to take a chance on JOE LIVELY for the in-form Colin Tizzard stable. They hunt with this 11-year-old and he has always looked like he’d appreciate a massive stamina test.

The Greatwood Hurdle is the climax of this tremendous three-day meeting on Sunday and this race has turned into one of the best early season Champion Hurdle trials. Khyber Kim landed this off 11st9lbs last season before going on to finish second to Binocular in March and five of the last eight winners of this race have carried 11st6lbs or more.

MENORAH won this year’s Supreme Novices’ in great style, goes well fresh and although he has to carry top weight, he would need to win this off a mark of 151 to have any chance in the Champion. Finally, don’t miss Nicky Henderson’s FINIAN’S RAINBOW in the opening Novices’ Chase at 1.10pm on Sunday. He had a fantastic season novice hurdling, but was always going to make a chaser. First time out could be the time to catch him and he has reportedly been working brilliantly at home.

POINTERS...

JOE LIVELY e/w 3.00pm Cheltenham (today)
LONG RUN 2.35pm Cheltenham (tomorrow)
POQUELIN e/w 2.35pm Cheltenham (tomorrow)
FINIAN’S RAINBOW 1.10pm Cheltenham (Sunday)
MENORAH e/w 2.20pm Cheltenham (Sunday)

PADDY’S TIP

The Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday is set to be one of the best ever.

There has been a massive ante post plunge on David Pipe’s Great Endeavour, who won at the Cheltenham Festival in March but Pipe has said that the favourite, Nicky Henderson’s Long Run, is a ‘good thing’!

When you look at the quality of horse that wins this race, like reigning Gold Cup champion Imperial Commander, you need to consider who will turn out to be a proper Grade 1 horse, LONG RUN fits the bill and will take some beating. Get on!