According to a variety of media reports, when top National Hunt trainer Nicky Henderson went to visit his King George VI and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run at owner Robert Waley-Cohen’s stud at the end of the summer, he barely recognised the horse who he swears has grown at least an inch during the off season, writes Elliot Slater.
That comment will doubtless have sent a shudder down the collective spines of those trainers who will bid to lower the colours of the outstanding French-bred chaser in the first major chase of the 2011/12 season which forms part of the Betfair Chase Festival on November 19. Long Run totally dominated the three-mile division last term, running riot in the King George VI Chase at Kemp ton where he defeated his now sidelined stable companion Riverside Theatre by an eased down 12-lengths, before appearing on the scene between the final two fences under a super-confident Sam Waley-Cohen (son of the owner), sweeping past outstanding former winners and Paul Nicholls-trained stable companions Kauto Star and Denman going to the final fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Bounding away up the famous hill to record a stunning seven-length verdict over the great Denman, Long Run established himself as one of the best chasers of the modern era and it comes as no surprise to see bookmakers prepared to take few chances with him on his first outing of the new term in pricing him up at 4/5 in the horse racing betting odds to carry on this campaign where he left off last.
If indeed he has grown stronger during the summer then he certainly will be an awesome prospect for the opposition at Haydock, with even connections of the superb Kauto Star, (three times a winner of the Betfair Chase and in front when tumbling at the last fence in the 2008 renewal) surely wondering what they will have to do this time around to land the spoils.