Monday, December 19, 2011

Long Run - King George 2011

Long Run - King George 2011

By Stephen Dwyer

History they say has a habit of repeating itself. The King George, run this St. Stephen's Day in Kempton is a race that has a phenomenal record of repeat winners. Desert Orchid and Kauto Star have won The King George four times apiece, while Kicking King, See More Business, One Man and Wayward Lad have all won the race more than once in the past 20 years. This year, Long Run aims to emulate this and has a very strong chance of claiming his second King George in a row.

If we strip it back to basics, Long Run is a big old-fashioned French chaser. Still a
sprightly six year old he is by Cadoudal, who also sired Big Buck's and Fadalko. He is more than this though, Long Run is an exceptional horse. Including his early career in France he has recorded twelve wins from nineteen starts. He has never finished out of the first three in a race. A Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, he improves as the season goes on. If we examine his first run over the past two seasons it appears he takes time to warm to the task.

In the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham last year he was slow in the air but still managed third. Against an ageless Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase last month, Long Run was prone to more jumping errors, particularly in the latter half of the race. It was as if he was unsettled by the pace and fluidity of the great Kauto.

Going into next Sunday's race, Long Run is unbeaten at Kempton. His win as a novice in the Grade 1 Feltham Novices' Chase was far from flawless. He jumped left and hit some fences but still cantered to a fourteen length victory. Last year at the same track he again made some early mistakes but his jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen, settled him and he had the race won in a couple of strides three fences out. Even more impressive to note is that his two runs at Kempton have a combined winning distance of 26 lengths.

Trainer Nicky Henderson was interviewed recently and noted "Kauto Star was better and
fitter than us the last day but The King George is the primary target for the first half of the season. Long Run has run twice at Kempton and was outstanding in the Feltham and outstanding in the King George. There's no reason why he won't be outstanding again"."

Currently available at odds of 13/8, Long Run is a short price to follow up on
last year's victory. Given that half the field are rank outsiders at big prices, his task is made that little bit easier. There is a doubt as to whether Master Minded will stay the three miles at Kempton and his three runs over 2m 4f have resulted in a first, second and third. There is also the niggling doubt that Kauto Star might have peaked against Long Run but a victory by the great 11 year old would lift the grandstand as he would become the first horse in history to win five King Georges.

The race does revolve around Long Run however and he will be very hard to beat. Nicky
Henderson has stated that the gelding has grown over the summer and will be primed for the race, even more so than last year. Currently running off a rating of 182, connections are upbeat, none moreso than his jockey.

Sam Waley-Cohen, the pilot of Long Run is the son of Robert Waley-Cohen, owner of the horse. Sam is not a professional jockey but an Oxford-educated businessman who owns a string of dental practises. He also became the first amateur jockey in 30 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier this year. Sam Waley-Cohen was the subject of heavy criticism on more than one occasion for his rides aboard Long Run with many punters of the opinion that Barry Geragthy should ride the gelding. Indeed his odds of winning the race shortened when it seemed that Waley-Cohen might be replaced by Barry Geraghty, after Waley-Cohen was banned for 12 days by the stewards at Fakenham for taking the wrong course.

In his garden, Waley-Cohen often takes time out to practice on his mechanical exercise horse, he is not a typical national hunt jockey but then again Long Run is not a typical national hunt horse.

Whatever people's opinion of Waley-Cohen may be, on St. Stephen's Day at Kempton he is in for one hell of a ride.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Four to follow

Four to follow

By Stephen Dwyer

Below are two chasers and two hurdlers who will be entered in races over the next couple of weeks and can be followed with confidence.

Bog Warrior
You don’t win the Drinmore by 31 lengths unless you are a serious horse. Bog Warrior, a highly progressive seven year old is just that. By leading stallion Strategic Choice, Bog Warrior is winner of four out of five starts to date. From a gritty bumper win on his debut, Tony Martin’s stable star easily landed a Beginner’s chase over two miles with a clear round of jumping. He is very fluid over fences and will comfortably stay three miles. His only fall came at the last flight of hurdles on bottomless ground at Navan and he has sharpened his jumping since. Taking a huge leap up in class since his chase debut, he beat last year’s star novice hurdler First Lieutenant in the 2 mile 4 furlong Drinmore last time out. Acting best on Soft ground, Bog Warrior is unlikely to travel to Cheltenham on good ground but he will be seen over Christmas at Leopardstown and should be fully supported over an extended trip.

Mikael D’Haguenet
Clearly not a chaser, Mikael D’Haguenet attempted to overcome a 593 day absence last year when looking a likely winner before falling at the last in the Grade One Drinmore. He was well fancied in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham but failed to make an impression. Mikael D’Haguenet has never won over fences, even when he was a younger horse in France but over hurdles he a different horse. A winner of three Grade One races including the Ballymore Novice’s Hurdle at Cheltenham, Willie Mullins seven year old remained unbeaten over smaller obstacles throughout the 2008/2009 season. He spent almost two years on the sidelines through injury but made a return to winning ways recently when carrying a low weight at Fairyhouse. Over two and a half miles on ground with some give in it, he can recapture his younger promise and the sky is the limit.

Quito De La Roque
A half-brother to smart 2m4f-3m hurdle winner Kazal, Quito De La Roque was cut from 3/1 into 7/4 favourite for the Lexus Chase following the retirement of Denman. Trained by Colm Murphy, the seven year old gelding is unbeaten in 2011. He was put away for Leopardstown and bypassed the Drinmore recently to give him every chance at Christmas. French bred in the style of some really decent chasers that Michael O’ Leary has procured over the past couple of seasons, he has only finished out of the first two placings once in his twelve starts. Effective on easy ground, he came from the clouds to beat Sizing Europe in the Champion Chase at Down Royal last month. He stays well and although beaten ¾ of a length by subsequent RSA winner Boston’s Angel at Leopardstown last year, Quito De La Roque went on to win the Mildmay chase at Aintree. He is one of Ireland’s leading staying chasers and it will take an exceptional horse to lower his colours if at his best in the Lexus.

Named after one of South Africa’s top wine producers, Simonsig is a dual Irish Point to Point winner. He is a speedy sort from the family of the French 2,000 guineas winner and won a top bumper by 13 lengths in Fairyhouse when trained by Antrim-based Ian Ferguson. He has since joined Nicky Henderson and his owners turned down a €100,000 offer from Gigginstown for the horse. Still only a five year old, he won a maiden hurdle easily at odds of 1/5. Last time out he was unlucky to meet a really useful sort in Fingal Bay. Philip Hobbs is on record as stating “Fingal Bay may the best horse I have ever trained”. Hobbs of course also trained Rooster Booster, the 167 rated grey who won a Champion Hurdle. Simonsig may act better on goodish ground over 2 miles 4 furlongs and may run next in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury. Nicky Henderson thinks very highly of this gelding and he can be confidently followed throughout the season.

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