Gold Cup is Long Run’s to lose

THE more one looks at last Monday’s King George at Kempton, the more convinced you become that the Cheltenham Gold Cup is Long Run’s to lose.

The problem, of course, is Sam Waley-Cohen and the fact, both ability-wise and tactically, he is so far behind Ruby Walsh as a rider.

Admittedly, there aren’t many who can hold their own with Walsh anyway, the likes of McCoy, Geraghty, Carberry and Russell the names which immediately spring to mind.

If Walsh was a soccer player he’d be probably be plying his trade with Manchester United, while Waley-Cohen might be in goal for Doncaster Rovers.

Walsh was allowed the freedom of the city at Kempton and able to do pretty much as he pleased through the contest.

Kauto was in a fantastic rhythm from start to finish and Waley-Cohen was content to stay behind and never, at any stage, did he attempt to force the winner out of his comfort zone.

I have little doubt now that Long Run, even against a rejuvenated Kauto Star, will hold all of the aces around Cheltenham, up that punishing hill and with three miles, two and a half furlongs to travel.

If, however, Barry Geraghty, for whatever reason, was to get on Long Run then that combination would be quite irresistible.

But the nagging doubt is Walsh will simply cod Waley-Cohen again and that Kauto could end up grabbing a third Gold Cup.

The good thing to emerge from Kempton, and Haydock prior to that, is Long Run is becoming a very backable price, touching as high as 11-4 this week.

There are so few possibilities for the Gold Cup and that represents fair odds. Oh Sam we need you to be on a real going day come March 16.

Meanwhile, there has been plenty of discussion this week as to how good a horse Kauto actually is and where he fits in relative to Arkle?

Such chat leaves this observer entirely cold. I grew up listening to old-timers arguing about whether Ring or Mackey was the better hurler.

Then those who continue to give a toss about soccer have to be either in the Pele or Maradona camp.

To my way of thinking none of it is of any importance and a complete waste of time and energy.

Ring, Mackey, Pele and Maradona were magical and contributed enormously to popularising their respective disciplines.

As a kid in the 60’s I got turned onto racing by Arkle. It was a tradition, in a house with no interest in the sport, to sit around a black and white television and watch Arkle in action wherever he ran.

How many more youngsters then were similarly inspired and have stayed with the game all through their lives?

And that now is the value of the great Kauto Star. Young people have seen him win two Gold Cups, the King George on five occasions and numerous other major races.

He has been with us year after year and more than stood the test of time. Like Arkle, he has become an icon.

It doesn’t matter a jot how he compares to Arkle and whether he is 14lbs, or whatever, an inferior horse than him.

Let’s just appreciate Kauto for what he is and that’s simply one of the greatest National Hunt horses ever.

************

A press-room colleague has me driven daft about a horse he says has been stopped the last two times it has run.

The stewards didn’t see anything wrong and no questions were asked. My colleague thinks connections have a big race in mind for the beastie.

The horse ran in the handicap hurdle won by Cass Bligh at Leopardstown on Tuesday. They had hardly gone by the line when he was on straight away to question whether I had noticed what had “gone on”.

I had been largely disinterested and didn’t give a whole lot of thought to the mutterings of my pal.

Then, however, with nothing better to do, decided to look at the Leopardstown contest again. And then had a glance at the horse’s previous race as well.

You know something, he just might have a case. Give yourself a little treat and analyse the Leopardstown heat on the ATR website, at your leisure. One word of warning, it is not what you would regard as obvious.

************

YOU had to spare a thought for Conor O’Dwyer at Leopardstown this week.

He thinks plenty of a horse we mentioned here before, Competitive Edge, who was nicely backed to win a maiden hurdle on Monday.

It all went horribly wrong after the first flight, however, with Competitive Edge being hampered and driven out through the rail. The race was eventually won by Willie Mullins’ Midnight Game.

Suffering no ill-effects, Competitive Edge was returned to the track on Wednesday, but this time ran into a Mullins special and was beaten ten lengths into second by the hugely impressive Make Your Mark.

It was, though, a further 13 lengths back to the third and, I think, Competitive Edge will get us a few quid, sooner rather than later.

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