Confidence high in Long Run
In-form Lambourn handler has two live chances
Last Updated: 15/03/12 5:56pm
Long Run and Nicky Henderson: Ready for the decider
Long Run may be the defending champion but will be viewed by many as the party pooper if he defeats Kauto Star in Friday's Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, with Nicky Henderson's yard in red-hot form, confidence in the camp is high he can retain his crown.
"The score is 2-2 and this is the decider, so let's hope it's a great race," said Henderson.
"He is seriously well and everything has gone great.
"We're happy where we are and Paul Nicholls is happy where he is, and I'd have been genuinely sad if Kauto Star came there and wasn't at his best.
"Kauto Star thumped us two times so we've got to get back and beat him.
"National Hunt racing wants this to happen.
"There are lots of great races in the week, but I hope this is the highlight."
Robert Waley-Cohen owns Long Run and is also chairman of Cheltenham racecourse.
As if that is not enough pressure, the seven-year-old gelding will be ridden by his son, Sam.
"Newbury was a wonderful, confidence-giving race," said Waley-Cohen snr.
"It was a high-class field and we were giving weight to the ones that looked likely to finish closest to us.
"He beat them all, broke the track record off 11st 10lb on good to soft ground, and jumped immaculately.
"The Gold Cup is the holy grail and it's what we want to win."
The Seven Barrows handler also has a second string in Burton Port, who chased home Long Run at Newbury recently.
Henderson added: "Long Run was giving 10b to Burton Port at Newbury and was idling on the run-in.
"We had been really happy with Burton Port going into Newbury and he was a good second after being off a long time.
"I didn't want him to have a very hard race so we could get him to Cheltenham."
In-form jockey Barry Geraghty rides Burton Port, but expects to have it all to do against his stablemate.
"I think the track will suit him, although it will also suit Long Run a whole lot better," said Geraghty.
"We were trying to get him into the race without giving him a hard race (at Newbury).
"He ran on from the last and I asked for every effort, but I didn't give him a hard race.
"Long Run was only doing what he had to do in front, but it was a good run.
"In the Gold Cup we'll know where we stand and know then if he's well handicapped for the Grand National."