Long Run gained his first win since the 2012 King George VI Chase when landing the odds in the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso yesterday.
That was his second success in the Christmas highlight and he also won the biggest prize in the game, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in 2011 but his star has been on the wane this season.
Well beaten at Wetherby and Haydock, he would have finished third at best in the King George but for unseating Sam Waley-Cohen at the final fence.
Trainer Nicky Henderson and owner Robert Waley-Cohen are seriously considering a tilt at the Crabbie’s Grand National with the nine-year-old, and were keen for a confidence-booster.
On the whole Long Run jumped well, bar a couple of minor errors, with Waley-Cohen content to sit behind Knockara Beau for much of the contest.
The 2-5 favourite was asked to assert at the second-last but Knockara Beau, who lowered the colours of the great Big Buck’s in the Cleeve Hurdle last month, refused to go away quietly.
They jumped the last almost in unison, but that was when Long Run began to pull clear, with six lengths the official winning margin.
Long Run was left unchanged at 25-1 for the National by Paddy Power, with only Tidal Bay set to carry more weight.
Henderson said: “It was just nice to see him get his head in front and get back on track.
“The principal objective is the Grand National, his jumping has got much more professional and he was good there today, the only times he got in a bit close were when he wanted to go a little bit quicker.
“I think the Gold Cup is looking pretty competitive at the moment but we’ll keep an eye on it, otherwise Aintree is where we’d really like to go.”
- My Tent Or Yours could be the star attraction in the kempton.co.uk “Jumpers’ Bumper” National Hunt Flat Race at Kempton on Sunday.
Trained by Nicky Henderson, the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old has won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton this season, beating The New One.
Henderson last week ruled out a possible trip to Wincanton for this weekend’s Kingwell Hurdle due to the prevailing heavy ground, and decided against a trip to Scotland for the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso.
Speaking at the Grand National weights lunch on Tuesday, Henderson said: “He’s in very good form, everything has been great.
“We sort of thought we’d like a race. We didn’t enter him in the Kingwell but we toyed with going to Kelso for the Morebattle.
“Therefore Kempton will come into the equation, maybe even a couple of times.
“It’s just to get the freshness out of him a little bit, otherwise he can get a little bit keen early on in his races.”
- Owner Barry Connell feels the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival is the best option for his star novice The Tullow Tank.
“I was very happy with him at Leopardstown , I think he ran to a similar level as he had done in his previous races,” said Connell.
“At Leopardstown, especially so on Sunday it seemed, you can’t let the leader get away as it can be very hard to make up ground.
“I’d say we’re probably looking more towards the Neptune given the way he finishes his races – in all of his races he’s been going strongest at the finish.”
- Connell’s Mount Benbulben meanwhile is on target for the At The Races Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday week.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, the nine-year-old ran a respectable race to finish fourth behind Silviniaco Conti in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
He holds entries in the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and his next performance will go some way to deciding his target for the rest of the season.
“He’ll go for the Bobbyjo,” said Connell. “I thought he ran OK in the King George. What we’ll do after the Bobbyjo is school him the other way round and see how he goes. If he goes to Cheltenham it will be for the Ryanair or the Gold Cup, one or the other. After that I’d have thought the Punchestown Gold Cup will be his target.”
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