Henderson thumbs up for Long Run and jockey Waley-Cohen

Trainer Nicky Henderson gave the ultimate thumbs up to Long Run and his jockey Sam Waley-Cohen at his media open day yesterday, ahead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.

Since the team's victory in last year’s renewal Long Run has been beaten in this season's Betfair Chase and King George VI Chase, on both occasions jumping none too fluently. Some of the blame for those defeats has been laid at the door of his amateur jockey, whose standing wasn't helped when he took the wrong course at Fakenham and rightly received short shrift from the stewards there for his lame excuse.

Even though Long Run and Waley-Cohen won their last race, the Betfair Denman Chase, a couple of weeks ago, that performance was not enough to get the critics of f his back. The performance was at best described as ‘workmanlike’, although the jockey was clear he felt it was the confidence booster that would do them both good.

Defending his jockey from the negative press he has had, Henderson said, "I'm not going to criticise the press but we all know the thing where they build them up to knock them down. He was the golden boy, the amateur, the Corinthian, the part timer who won the Gold Cup. But when things go a little bit wobbly they get on his back. He's done nothing wrong – it was a great ride at Newbury. Say no more."

Henderson had his own explanation for Long Run’s two defeats before Christmas, both races being won by Kauto Star. He said, "Kauto Star seems to have become two years younger all of a sudden this season. I don't doubt that this is a different Kauto to the one we saw last season. He beat us with a turbo charge at Haydock and then something similar (at Kempton), but they are speed tracks. You tend to wind the pace up more steadily in the Gold Cup. If he's going to head for home a long way out at Cheltenham, you’ve got two and a half furlongs further to go and you’re running uphill to do it. It might be harder for him and easier for us."

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