Powerful team can give Henderson a Saturday to remember

LAST year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero LONG RUN makes his eagerly awaited return to the racecourse tomorrow when he faces just five rivals in the Betfair Chase at Haydock (3.05pm). National Hunt racing’s new star landed last season’s King George at Kempton before going on to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Dual Gold Cup winner Kauto
Star finished third to Long Run on both of those occasions and there were many, including me, who thought that Paul Nicholls might retire the 11-year-old over the summer. However, he lines up again tomorrow and there will be plenty of loyal followers who’ll be tempted by the freely available 7/1.

Yet, his best days are surely behind him and Long Run’s biggest threat looks likely to be Diamond Harry or Weird Al. The former has an impeccable record when fresh and put up a breathtaking performance to win last season’s Hennessy Gold Cup. He relishes some give underfoot and if the weathermen are to be believed, he won’t get his conditions tomorrow.

Weird Al saw off Time For Rupert at Wetherby last time and may be flourishing now in the hands of Donald McCain. It would just be a major surprise if either were good enough to lower Long Run’s colours. If pressed, I’d probably side with Diamond Harry to chase him home, but it may be safer just taking the 5/6 available about a Long Run victory with Paddy Power.

Incidentally, the same firm are offering a special double on Long Run winning tomorrow and then going on to win another King George on Boxing Day - the 9/4 may look very generous come 3.15pm tomorrow.

Looking at the rest of Haydock’s card and the Henderson team look to have an excellent chance of completing a treble with GRANDOUET (12.15pm) and SENTRY DUTY (2.30pm). Grandouet should have won at Wincanton last time when falling two out when still cruising. As for Sentry Duty, he looks a cut above handicap class and Jeremiah McGrath takes off a valuable 5lb.

Henderson’s luck can spread to Ascot where he saddles OSCAR WHISKY in the Coral Hurdle at 2.45pm. This horse has bundles of class as he showed by winning at Aintree last term after finishing third in the Champion Hurdle. He seems to run best when fresh and will be hard to stop even with a penalty.

It seems strange to be talking about the Cheltenham Festival already, but I’m going to recommend the first in a series of ante-post bets on the event. Philip Hobbs stipulated earlier this week that he intended to drop Wishfull Thinking back in trip to two miles and run him in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December. If he wins or even runs well, there is every chance he could rise to the top of that weak looking division and the freely avaiable 25/1 about him winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase looks massive.

City A.M. and the Punter are heading down to Newbury for Gentlemen's Day next Friday and for our loyal followers you can book half price tickets at £14. Please call Newbury Racecourse on 01635 40015 and quote City A.M.

If you are one for style, we have another exclusive package for the Winter Festival, including the Hennessy Gold Cup, which avoids the hassle thanks to an incredible helicopter trip, hotel, dining and of course top quality racing. See the offer on page 34 for more information.

You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my other thoughts on tomorrow’s action