Waley-Cohen was speaking as plans for the new Cheltenham season, which begins a week today, were set out. He said, “The plan is to run in the Betfair Chase at the end of November followed by the King George and Cheltenham Gold. The Grand National is an option if he does not make the Gold Cup. He definitely will not be running in both races. I believe horses should not run again if they have run in the Gold Cup. Regardless of where you finish, they have a very hard race.”
He went on to say that the National was a fall back position which would only be taken up “because of a Nathaniel-type situation when you can miss your main target and be fine a week later.” The timings of entries for the National mean that connections can make a final decision after the Gold Cup, as the last acceptance stage for the National is a week later.
Long Run’s owner was still at a loss to explain his horse’s defeat in this year’s Gold Cup, in which he finished third to Synchronised and The Giant Bolster. Waley-Cohen said, “I have no idea what happened. He jumped the last in the lead and then he just didn’t fire up the hill at all. How could The Giant Bolster turn round and 11-length beating and 4lb from Newbury and finish in front? That has to be a bad run, and if you can run a terrible race in the Gold cup and still come third you must be quite a good horse.”
Waley-Cohen said that his horse had both calmed down and filled out over the summer, and looked more a chaser than ever. He defended his horse against charges that his jumping would not be good enough for the National, saying, “He jumped round Auteuil over and over again, which is a pretty trappy course. He’s jumped round several Grade 1 tracks in the UK and I think he would stay the trip.”
I hope we don’t need to find out next year. Long Run will only be eight years old, and with only one winner from that age group (Bindaree, 1992) in the last 20 years, it would be much more sensible to wait a year or two if Long Run is ever to tackle the Grand National.