PAT KEANE: He who pays the piper ...

People who own a racehorse can make any arrangements they like.

Racing is littered with examples of jockeys who are capable of falling out of bed.

But if one of them, of particularly limited talent, buys a horse and pays for it to be trained then there can be no argument he is more than entitled to get as much enjoyment as possible and ride it himself, if that’s his choice.

Likewise, if an owner wants a relation to ride his favourite beastie then that is very much his prerogative.

When a punter is going to place a bet, he is well aware of who is in the plate and whingeing afterwards that a modest rider has completely messed up is a total waste of time.

Which brings us neatly onto Long Run, the pride and joy of the Waley-Cohens.

He is owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and, since arriving from France to be trained by Nicky Henderson, has only ever been ridden by his son, Sam.

The Waley-Cohens are clearly not short of a bob or two and, you’d imagine, aren’t in National Hunt racing to make money.

When Sam successfully guided Long Run to an emphatic success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup of 2011 then, as a family, that must have given them enormous pleasure and the massive prize money on offer was probably irrelevant.

But ever since that day it has, essentially, been down hill for Long Run and his Corinthian partner.

While respecting the Waley-Cohens right to do as they like with their own horse, one has to say it is becoming increasingly frustrating watching Long Run.

Twice last year, in the Betfair at Haydock and the King George at Kempton, Kauto Star, under inspired Ruby Walsh drives, was too good for the young horse.

And then, in last Saturday’s renewal of the Betfair, history basically repeated itself, with Walsh allowed to do as he pleased aboard Silviniaco Conti to again beat Long Run.

As English amateur riders go, Sam is one of the best around. He is a perfectly competent horseman, but you cannot expect him to be a match for the likes of Walsh, McCoy or Geraghty.

These guys are multi-talented, hardened professionals, who ride literally every day. In contrast, Waley-Cohen takes only a handful of rides in a season and will always be facing almost insurmountable odds.

He is especially up against it when trying to match Walsh. Academically, I don’t know how clever Walsh was. You suspect, like most of us, he was average.

But on top of a horse, he is a Grade A student practically all of the time. Tactically, there has never been a more astute jockey and Waley-Cohen often has to feel like a junior hurler trying to mark Henry Shefflin.

Will the senior Waley-Cohen ever grasp the nettle and decide it is time for the son to step down? Probably not. Would junior ever step down of his own volition? Probably not.

And, of course, there is nothing at all wrong with such behaviour: he who pays the piper and all of that.

But you would just love if Nicky Henderson were given the chance to nod in Geraghty’s direction and at least allow him one belt at Long Run. It wouldn’t half level the playing field.

There is surely no more exciting young horse racing right now than Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack.

We all know he is a triple bumper winner, but such credentials don’t always guarantee success when a set of obstacles have to be negotiated.

Last Sunday, at Navan, the imposing five-year-old barely broke sweat when getting off the mark at the first time of asking in a maiden hurdle.

In a subsequent interview on ATR, Elliott dismissed any notion that the horse’s jumping was an issue.

I’m not so sure. Certainly, there were occasions when he got fine and low and gave the impression of being a total chaser, who found jumping little hurdles something of an irritation.

That aside, Don Cossack does seem to possess an awesome engine and if he can win a decent enough two-mile maiden over flights on the bridle, what will he be like when big, black fences are in front of him, over three?

That was a decent bit of placing by Charles Byrnes to win a Listed hurdle with Knockfierna at Kempton on Monday.

Some of the descriptions of her in the British press didn’t half help to allow the mare to go off at a starting price of 11-4, and 3-1 was available on Betfair.

She was labelled as ‘taking a bit of knowing’, then ‘quirky’ and finally ’enigmatic’.

I thought it was all a bit unfair about a horse that had won eight races and has really been hugely consistent, but for two puzzling efforts at Limerick.

Twice she ran out at the second last fence at the track and it remains a mystery as to why she behaved like that in the exact same place.

And it seemed to be conveniently forgotten that the first time it happened she appeared to have the measure of the current Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, Sir Des Champs.

Anyway, it all fed into the psyche and those who felt she actually had plenty going for her at Kempton, in contrast to over fences at Clonmel previously, were rewarded with a tasty return.


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