03/18/2011 12:46PM

Cheltenham Gold Cup: Long Run scores under amateur jockey

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Long Run confirmed 7-2 favoritism to land a thrilling renewal of the $807,000 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, defeating three previous winners of steeplechasing’s most coveted prize in the process.

Despite a couple of minor mistakes in the middle part of the race, amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen, a dentist by profession, sat chilly in fifth place throughout much of the 3 5/16 miles and 20 fences aboard the Nicky Henderson-trained winner. Matters heated up as they came down the hill approaching the stretch the second time as those three previous winners, Kauto Star, Denman, and Imperial Commander, lined themselves up across the track with Long Run hot on their heels. Imperial Commander blundered on the downhill third-last fence and fell back as the Paul Nicholls-trained stablemates Kauto Star and Denman turned for home dueling for the lead.

Waley-Cohen took Long Run wide and jumped the second-last in unison with Kauto Star and Denman, but Long Run was going best of all. He led by two lengths jumping the last and ran out a convincing seven-length winner over the 8-1 Denman, who had a further four lengths on the 5-1 Kauto Star, who in turn just lasted for third by a nose from the 25-1 What a Friend.

Bred in France by Marie-Christine Gabeur and owned by rider Sam’s father, Robert Waley-Cohen, Long Run becomes the first horse as young as 6 years old to win the Gold Cup since Mill House in 1963. A Grade 1 winner both hurdling and chasing in France at Auteuil, the gelded son of Cadoudal had previously won the prestigious three-mile King George VI Chase at Kempton Park by 12 lengths on Jan. 15 when Kauto Star was third. Still a youth by steeplechasing standards, Long Run appears to have a long and fruitful career in front of him.