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.

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