Now that the immediate euphoria surrounding the win in the Gold Cup by LONG RUN has (almost) died down, it is possible to reflect on the result and the manner of victory in the cold light of day.
RPR (Racing Post Ratings) have rated the performance at 183. To put that rating into perspective, that is 1lb less than what Denman (184) was rated when he won in 2008. It is 2lb below the rating given to Kauto Star (185) for his 2nd Gold Cup victory in 2009, and it is 1lb higher than the rating achieved by Imperial Commander (182) last year. It is also 5lb greater that the highest rating ever achieved by TRIPLE Gold Cup winner Best Mate, in 2003, who is the ONLY horse since 1971 to retain the Gold Cup and, in being a TRIPLE Gold Cup winner, he did that feat twice.
Ratings are always subjective and, before I go on, RPR is the corner-stone of my form assessment on both the Flat and over the Jumps. Generally, the ratings are consistent and they can be relied upon to be fairly accurate. But, on this occasion, I think they are wrong. I have stated before that I reckon both the Official Handicapper and RPR are “desperate” to get a horse rated at 200+ and break the record set (at 212) by Arkle in the 1960’s. It is my suspicion that in Long Run, they think they have the horse that can do it.
When Long Run was 3rd in the Paddy Power last November, I rated his performance at 167 (RPR170) which was pretty much in line with everyone else. When he came out and won the KGVI in January, I used Nacarat in 4th as my ‘base’ horse. I rated his performance at 150, which is 5lb less than his current Official Rating of 155, on the basis that the horse is not a true 3-miler in Grade 1 chases (from 5 Grade 1’s he’s finished 3rd twice and 4th in the other 3 races, beaten a total of 98-lengths). I do not think a horse reported as “weakening and well held when blundered 2-out” was running to 7lb below his personal best. Therefore, with Nacarat on 150, Long Run was rated 168 with Riverside Theatre at 159. In my view, Kauto Star was a shadow of his former self in that race, and I rated him 154.
For the Gold Cup, I have used the proximity of What A Friend in 4th as the ‘base’ horse. I go along with the Official Handicapper’s assessment of this horse at OR159. He handles “good” going, in fact he’s won a bumper on good-to-firm, so he was not inconvenienced by the quick Festival going this year. I reckon What A Friend ran up to his Official Rating of 159, and that puts LONG RUN (in my opinion) on 170. No doubt this may raise a few eyebrows and I’m sure the question “what about Denman?” who was 2nd will be voiced. The last race Denman won on “good” going was a 6-runner novice chase in October 2006. His form on “good” going since then has been Fell / 4th / 2nd / 2nd whereas on “good-to-soft” going (since that Oct-06 race) his form has been 1st / 1st / 1st /1st / 2nd / 2nd / 1st / UR / 3rd with that 3rd being in the Hennessey with top-weight giving 26lb to Diamond Harry and Burton Port. The going at Cheltenham for the Festival put-paid to the chances of many horses and placed the advantage with those horses that could handle going on the quick side of good. My worry for LONG RUN is that he was reported by trainer Nicky Henderson as “stiff” the morning after the race and, if he’s really felt the going there in winning the Gold Cup on Friday, we might not see the same horse again.
There are just a couple of meetings today at Kelso in Scotland and Lingfield in Surrey; these courses must be separated by about 450 miles. The meeting at Lingfield looks pretty dire, altho’ recent winners Red Law (won 5-days ago, runs in the 3:30), Present Star (won 7-days ago, runs in the 4:30), and Won More Night (won 8-days ago, runs in the 5:00) will be well supported. Of the 3, Won More Night looks the most interesting and is more likely to follow-up this afternoon.
At Kelso, there are a couple of interesting runners. I recently wrote of BLACKPOOL BILLY who was highly thought of and expected to do well as a chaser, but he unfortunately injured himself in his chase debut and was off the track for 2-years. He’s improved with every one of his 4 runs since his return, and was only just beaten LTO. He should win today, but current odds of 7/4 leave no margin for error, so I’ll pass him over. Another I like is an old friend, ABRAGANTE. A few readers who know of him will think he’s a bit of a rogue, as he is a bit of a “bridle” horse (that is, he looks full of running and capable of winning but, when push comes to shove, he finds nothing). However, he does go best when fresh (been off the track for 16 months), and a spot of hunting to qualify for this hunter chase may have rekindled the flame. Whatever, he is easily the most talented horse in this field (he was 3rd fav for the 2007 Hennessey off OR139) and he’ll get the pace he needs from 2nd-fav Quotica De Poyans. At odds of 7/1, he looks an “each-way steal” at 5th odds a place (1,2,3).
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