SATURDAY RACING TIPS – LONG RUN LOOKS A NATIONAL TREASURE
Long Run chucked in off a mark of 160
You would be a brave individual to label an odds-on shot in a four-runner novices’ chase a “good thing” let alone a contender in the Crabbie’s Grand National (4.15). However, barring accidents I cannot envisage LONG RUN, who can still be backed at 14/1 with bet365 and Paddy Power at the time of writing, being turned over in this year’s renewal of the Aintree spectacular on Saturday.
In the eyes of many, Nicky Henderson’s charge has proved something of a disappointment since thwarting Paul Nicholls’ big guns Denman and Kauto Star in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup. It’s fair to say that he has failed to reproduce pyrotechnics akin to that on a racecourse subsequently, but to view him as a disappointment would be a gross injustice.
In many ways, Long Run has been the victim of his own success – or, moreover, his precociousness. Winning a Gold Cup at the age of six is a tremendous feat – in fact, he was the first horse since Mill House in 1963 to achieve that feat – but it’s an achievement which inevitably takes a great deal out of such a young horse. And so it has proved with Long Run.
However, while he is clearly now operating below the level that he was during the 2010/11 campaign, many people seem to have forgotten that he won the King George and was placed in three other Grade 1 races last season. And he shouldn’t be judged too harshly on his exploits so far this term, as he’s evidently been trained with the National in mind.
In any case, the nine-year-old showed clear signs that he was coming to the boil when landing a minor chase in decisive fashion at Kelso on his latest start in February, and Henderson is bound to have left plenty to work on in the interim. Off a mark of 160, Long Run is the best-handicapped horse I have ever seen in a Grand National.
In my opinion, the gelding will relish the unique National experience – quite often, horses with quirks take to the fences like a duck to water – and his big-race jockey Sam Waley-Cohen enhanced his already impressive record on the National course when steering Warne to victory in the hunters’ chase on Thursday. I believe he will stay the trip fine; I also believe he will win, and win well.
Ante-post favourite Teaforthree has obvious claims off a handy-looking mark, while Tidal Bay, who ran a cracking race in defeat in the Welsh National earlier in the season, is respected despite the burden of top-weight. Tony McCoy’s mount Double Seven and Willie Mullins’ Prince de Beauchene are others to consider.
Take the Hint in the Maghull…
Trifolium lost little caste in defeat when third in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival and is bound to be popular with AP McCoy doing the steering in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase (2.05). However, he doesn’t look bombproof and preference is for the Paul Nicholls-trained HINTERLAND.
The selection won his first two starts of the current campaign at Sandown, including the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, and he was still travelling well when unseating rider four out in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last time.
In all probability, Hinterland would have struggled to match strides with the brilliant Sire de Grugy had he stayed on all fours, but he was nevertheless in the process of running a mighty race and he makes plenty of appeal back in novice company here.
Whisper quietly fancied in the Stayers’ Hurdle
The absence of World Hurdle hero More of That in the Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle (2.50) has left At Fishers Cross, who was third in that Cheltenham Festival race, with a clear-cut opportunity to resume winning ways.
Rebecca Curtis’ charge is undoubtedly the one to beat, but he’s too short for my liking at a top-priced 13/8 and it could be worth siding with WHISPER, who is an appealing 13/2 with Paddy Power (as short as 4s with Hills) and arrives here on the back of a career-best effort.
Indeed, the six-year-old stepped up on anything he has previously shown when narrowly getting the better of Get Me Out of Here in the 28-runner Coral Cup at last month’s Festival. Admittedly, Whisper needs to improve again if he’s to topple the likes of At Fishers Cross and Zarkandar, but there could be better still to come from now that he’s faced with a stiffer test of stamina.