SAM Waley-Cohen is looking forward to former champion Long Run returning to winning ways in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The seven-year-old, owned by Waley-Cohen’s father Robert, was runner-up to Kauto Star in a memorable renewal 12 months ago and heads a quality 19-strong entry for the November 24 race.
With Kauto Star now retired, connections of the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding will be hoping the coast is clear for them to enjoy a lucrative campaign.
As well as the Betfair Chase, Long Run was also beaten by Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and then failed to defend the Cheltenham Gold Cup crown that he won in 2011.
“We are pleased with Long Run. He has developed into a big, strong racehorse which we are all very excited about. He seems to have had a good summer and looks great,” said the jockey.
“He didn’t achieve the heights last season that he achieved the year before. You always set your aspirations by what you have done in the past, but in many ways you can’t be disappointed about being beaten by arguably the greatest horse of all time. We were never out of the first three, having run in top-class company, and although we did not get the results we wanted, you can’t be too disappointed either.
“The results clearly stand for themselves in that he didn’t run to the same mark as he did the year before but, in terms of how Long Run felt through his races, I thought his jumping was significantly better than the year before and he was much more mature.
“All these things bode well. I think there is an incredibly exciting group of horses out there and every year a new star is born and everyone will be trying to lay claims for the title of Kauto Star’s successor.”
Long Run also heads 31 entries for the King George that includes Charlie Hall hero Silviniaco Conti and Cue Card, a thrilling winner of Tuesday’s Haldon Gold Cup.
Also entered is David Pipe’s exciting grey Grands Crus – but the trainer is undecided whether his stable star should line-up in Cheltenham’s Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday week or take on Long Run off level weights the following week.
Grands Crus has been allotted a relatively lenient 11st 6lb at Cheltenham while Ferdy Murphy’s Divers, third 12 months ago, has just 10st 1lb.
Significant increases in prize money have been rubber-stamped after final confirmation that the Levy Board will contribute £50.2m next year from bookmakers, markedly up from £38.9m at present.