Long Run booked for Kelso trip

Long Run is to travel north of the border for the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase later this week as connections head to Kelso in search of better ground.

The Kempton Park Chase, formerly known as the Racing Plus Chase, on February 22 had been earmaked as a target for the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, who was last seen when unseating his rider in the King George.

However, the promise of better ground, combined with a less competitive race, has proved an irresistible lure for owner Robert Waley-Cohen and trainer Nicky Henderson.

“It’s a Class Two race, not a Class One, and it’s just a case of going where the ground is best,” said Waley-Cohen.

“Kelso is good to soft and Kempton raced last Friday on heavy ground.

“It will be nice for him to have a race that’s not one of the toughest of the season.

“The horse is fine. We just don’t really want to go on very heavy ground. The Denman Chase at Newbury last weekend was an option, but there was no way we would run on that ground.

“The forecast is for torrential rain again later this week and the ground is good to soft at Kelso, so it makes sense to take the opportunity.”

Long Run has not tasted victory since landing the 2012 King George and his three runs this seasons have all yielded unplaced finishes – the first occasions in the gelding’s career when he has not made the frame.

Should he bounce back to winning form, Long Run is entered once again for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup as well as the Crabbie’s Grand National.

“We’ll see how it goes, but Aintree is definitely an option,” said Waley-Cohen.

Meanwhile all Cheltenham Festival options remain open for Al Ferof despite his defeat at Newbury, according to owner John Hales.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old was beaten 25 lengths into second by Harry Topper in the Denman Chase on what was just his second try over three miles.

He had previously finished third in the King George VI Chase over that trip at Kempton and was having to tackle heavy ground at the weekend, with officials dolling off a couple of fences due to the very testing conditions.

In the immediate aftermath talk surrounded whether he would be better suited to the Ryanair Chase rather than the Gold Cup, but Hales is not currently ruling anything out for his star.

The grey is also entered in the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase, with Hales keen to see how the track is shaping up nearer the date before committing to any particular race.

He said: “We will leave a decision until much nearer the time as there’s a couple of factors to take into consideration. Firstly, what the weather is like over the next few weeks and secondly, what the ground is like at Cheltenham.

“I think as far as the media is concerned, you are going to get the same answer from a lot of people as you just don’t know what will happen with the weather. It’s a bit far off to be making a decision.”

“We haven’t had heavy ground at Cheltenham since the days of Desert Orchid.

“Our horse has entries in the Gold Cup, the Ryanair and the Queen Mother and we’ll leave it nearer to the time to make a decision.”

A decision on whether My Tent Or Yours, Henderson’s big hope in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, accompanies Long Run to the Borders track is expected today.

Henderson is set to discuss whether to run the J P McManus-owned seven-year-old in the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle as a prep for the Festival.

“I’m speaking to Nicky in the morning and we’ll make a decision then. At the minute, I don’t know,” said the owner’s racing manager Frank Berry.

“Everything is fine with him. Nicky couldn’t be happier.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox