Long Run can get off on the right foot

THE reappearance of Gold Cup champion Long Run and two-times winner Kauto Star in today's Betfair Chase is the highlight of a pretty good day of action across the water and, with a really useful supporting cast in the day's feature, it's about as good a chase as will be seen before the Gold Cup at Cheltenham next March.

Kauto Star won this race three times out of four attempts in the last five years and he unseated when challenging for the lead after the last fence on the other occasion. Clearly it's a race that has been very good to him but he didn't run in the race last year and his official rating has dipped more than 20lbs from its peak back in the 2009/2010 season.

A current rating of 170 still puts him ahead of all of today's runners bar Long Run and, I suppose, that is part of the reason why it can be argued that he represents good each-way value at around 7-1. However, there are issues with that assessment. Firstly, there are only seven runners, which means only the first two home matter, and secondly, his slide down the ladder has been quite dramatic as he only won one race last year - the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.

It seems pretty obvious to me that his trainer Paul Nicholls, whose string is in superb form, will have Kauto as fit as he can possibly have him, but he is not the force of old and couldn't be a confident selection.

Diamond Harry is a horse I have a high regard for and, as has been well documented, he is best when fresh. This is his seasonal debut, but he was an 11th hour defector from the Charlie Hall Chase and I'm very uncomfortable backing horses who return quickly having been pulled out of a race.

That caveat applies particularly when the race was a long-term target for the horse. He was trained to the minute for the Wetherby contest - his trainer Nick Williams stated that he wouldn't improve a lot for the run - and, while the problem was reportedly quite a minor one, I worry that he's had to be let down and brought back up for today's race. Perhaps I'll be proved wrong, but those concerns are too grave for me to entertain the idea of backing him here.

In his absence from the Charlie Hall Chase, Weird Al, making his debut for Donald McCain, saw off the challenge of Time For Rupert. The two horses line up for this race and, based on the forecast good ground and the fact that the winner is three pounds better off with the runner-up, I would expect the form to be franked.

McCain said prior to that race that the eight-year-old, formerly trained by Ian Williams, would come on for the run. As a horse with just nine runs under his belt (six of which he has won), that's more than just a possibility and he could yet develop into a genuine Gold Cup contender.

I can't say I'm entirely convinced that Long Run deserves a rating of 182 for his victory in last season's Gold Cup but, regardless, he has a lot in his favour today. The negative is that he really should have won the Paddy Power Gold Cup on his debut last season but he developed so rapidly through the season that I expect to see a much more forward display today.

Based on ratings, he's a huge price at even money and, if like me, you don't think last year's seasonal debut has any relevance to today's race, then he's a confident selection to get off on the right foot.

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