Cheltenham Festival: Gold Cup – Who will be the Star of the Long Chase?

March 16, 2012

Reference indeed in the title to the leading lights in the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup, as Long Run defends his title against the rejuvinated Kauto Star whilst Midnight Chase has set out his stall with an impressive win in the Argento

Today, I have struck my bets, or at least begun to get bits matched and placed orders for my Gold Cup bets and the centre all around one runner. I backed my selection for a single pound just a few hours after last seasons race in which I completly discounted Long Run on nothing more than his age. I was reliably informed, as it turned out, that Imperial Commander could not and would not follow up his 2010 victory, and in the abscence of confidence for anything else in the field, picked out one who ran, what to me, looked a promising race. Hence the bet struck the very next morning. I’ll get to the selection i the following thoughts.

So, we have to start with LONG RUN. Defending Champion. Well, that’s a negative to start with. Certainly when he will enter the envelope which houses the likes of Cottage Rake, Arkle, L’Escartgot and most recently, the incredible Best Mate. The one thing he certainly has on his side is age. In winning in 2011, he became the first 6yo to do so since Mill House in 1963, and only the fourth since the war. At 7, he fits into a far more qualified age range to complete the feat and is probably rightly at the head of the market. his win last year was a wonderful sight, but with a pair of 11 year old in Denman and Kauto Star in behind, the form was up for debate at the time. Since then of course he has suffered defeat on two occasions to Kauto Star, defeats which could also be described as comfortable wins for Paul Nichols wonder-horse.

Now, should KAUTO STAR go on and win the 2012 Gold Cup, he would be achieving the nigh impossible and could quite easily be descibed as THE best ever Gold Cup winner. To win the Cup three times, as Best Mate and Cottage Rake did in consecutive seasons is quite amazing, do it without back to back wins over 6 seasons would be ridiculous. I have to say, for that to happen in my lifetime would, to date, be the most incredible event, and certainly one that even now, sat at my desk, prompts a tingle in the tear ducts. To be present on the hill to watch Ruby Walsh ride him back in front of the Grandstand to what would be an incomparable reception would bring a tear of pleasure and incredulous joy to a good percentage of the National Hunt loving attendance. And who is to say he can’t do it. For most of the year, and certainly since last March when Long Run led him up the hill to win in 2011, Long Run has long been the unquestioned favourite to win again, but in two outstanding performances, that even Paul Nichols has struggled to explain through his own tears, in the Betfair Chase and King George VI, Kauto Star has placed himself firmly at the head of the market.

Mentioned herein have been Cottage Rake, Arkle and Best Mate, all of whom can boast incredible records in the Gold Cup, but only once each won the King George. Until last year Desert Orchid was THE King George Horse with four amazing wins over a span of five seasons. Kauto Star eclipsed that in 2011, with a FIFTH title over SIX years, deposing the 2010 Champion Long Run in the process. So as March approaches, do we not have a contest to match that of previous Denman v Kauto build ups. Certainly that looks to be the agenda and what a contest it will be but this is the Gold Cup and isn’t there always the proverbial spanner in the works?

I shall not be as brave as to say MIDNIGHT CHASE is that spanner, for he has a hell of a job on his hands to displace either one of the aforementioned, let alone them both but it would be reminiscent of Imperial Commanders victory in 2010, defeating Denman, with Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh floundering on the floor down the hill. So not impossible.

Midnight Chase is the bet i mentioned earlier, that I had in the abscence of anything better in last years race, and on the day I saw enough to consider that neither Kauto or Denman would make this years race and Long Run would befall the same fate as Imperial Commander in not being able to retain the title. At the time it was a 50/1 shot, and so it stayed until his Argento Chase win on the 3m1f110yd trip of the Cheltenham Chase course at the end of January. He finished as well up the hill as you would want a Gold Cup contender to do, given the extra furlong required in March and for me, it puts him spot on for the race. His price was halved immediately and as I write, has hardened further to 16/1. Here is where some considered sports betting in employed. Whilst I have popped in another win bet for him at 26 following the Argento, consider the following. In my opinion, take Kauto Star and Long Run out of the equation and find any other horse in the line up who can run up to that form. Difficult isn’t it. So a quick look at the market w/o the front two I find a price of over 6/1 available! The place only bet for him is only 9/2 and that in itself, for me, is worth investment. I have taken 5pt bets on both and aim to top up in the coming days and weeks. 6/1 for no other horse to find that level of form on the day is massive and here is why.

I have Midnight Chase running to a mark of 166 in last years race and 167 in the Argento Chase. Looking through previous Gold Cups, in recent years, taking out Long Run, Kauto Star and Denman, to match that mark  I can find only What a Friend last year (170) and Neptune Collonges in 2008 (171). Even going back to previous winners I have War of Attrition at the same 167 winning in 2006, Kicking King on only 165 as winner in 2005, and not to put a downer on Best Mate but respectively figures of 151, 156 and 166 in his three wins spanning 2002-2004. Midnight Chase is therefore capable of winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In the battle against Long Run and Kauto, I don’t have Long Run down as any worse than last year in fact. I have him still running 170 this season to match his Gold Cup 2011 performance, rather it is Kauto who has stepped back up his game in running to a mark in excess of that recorded for his 2009 Gold Cup win. Will the King George and Betfair Chases have taken any toll on the pair in the run up? Only time will tell and for Kauto Star, crucially, this is not Kempton Park!

This piece is now way beyond the length I desired for it to be and i have mentioned only three contenders. What I do next will ruffle some feathers but I will go ahead in any case. Grands Crus? Don’t make me laugh. This is no disrespect to the horse itself, a fine Novice it is, but a novice it remains with just three chases under his belt. I’m sorry but this is certainly a year too early for him and surely the RSA has to be the target where he would hold a outstanding chance. He simply does not hold the experience required for this race, even without the top two in the market.

Syncronised is closely matched with Midnight Chase on his Lexus win, and will be another who will attract good each way support. My fear for this one is the pace of the race at this trip, he is suited to further and I would rather have any each way bets for him struck on the Grand National where he will been seen at his best. Preference at almost twice the price would be for Weird Al, whose Betfair Chase and Charlie Hall runs put him in with claims. Just 2 lengths behind Long Run at Haydock show his ability.


A winner from outside of those mentioned, or indeed anything to place outside these is unlikely in my mind, but I may return to the race closer to the event and just run my eye over them. My stall is set for now however and m bets are struck. The battle is Long Run v Kauto, but with their prices at 9/4 and 4/1, better value for me can be had by backing MIDNIGHT CHASE in the w/o market and to place, with a small investment on an Imperial Commander-esque upset.

5pt win MIDNIGHT CHASE w/o Long Run or Kauto @ 7

5pt place MIDNIGHT CHASE @ 5.5

1pt win MIDNIGHT CHASE @ 26

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One Response to Cheltenham Festival: Gold Cup – Who will be the Star of the Long Chase?

  1. Cheesy Peas on February 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Wow. Really?

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