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Page last updated at 15:38 GMT, Friday, 18 March 2011

Cheltenham: Long Run stars to secure Gold Cup glory

Coverage: BBC Radio 5 live Fri 1300-1600, Channel 4 TV/Racing UK; reports/results: BBC Sport website
Twitter: Updates from BBC's Cornelius Lysaght and Honest Frank

Sam Waley-Cohen on Long Run
It was a historic win for Long Run and jockey Sam Waley-Cohen

Long Run justified his billing as 7-2 favourite by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a superb display.

The win meant Sam Waley-Cohen, son of owner Robert, become the first amateur jockey in 30 years to win the race.

Long Run, trained by Nicky Henderson, won January's King George VI Chase but the six-year-old had struggled at Cheltenham on previous visits.

But he made no mistake this time around to beat previous winners Denman (8-1) and Kauto Star (5-1).

Defending champion Imperial Commander, who was out of contention a long way from home before being pulled up, was later found to have burst a blood vessel.

Kauto Star took the race a long way out and with three fences to go was fighting it out with stablemate and fellow 11-year-old Denman.

But Waley-Cohen had Long Run well positioned and they looked dangerous at the top of the hill and loomed alongside the Nicholls duo with two fences to go and his younger legs were able to get him clear from the last and up the Cheltenham hill for a famous win.

The French-bred horse becomes the youngest Gold Cup winner since Mill House in 1963.

"That's a very special feeling and he's a very special horse," said the jockey. "He's a whole lot better than I thought he was.

"I want to say thank you to everyone for believing in me and the horse.

"This is beyond my wildest dreams. I didn't think we were going to get there, but he picked up, and I think he still had a bit left.

"When he got there he saw the crowd and he wanted to stop and have a look. What a horse he is."

It was a first Gold Cup win - and a 39th Festival success for Henderson, who is the all-time leading trainer at the meeting.

Waley-Cohen delighted with Gold Cup success

"It's sort of nice it's over, to be honest. It was a great race, that's the thing," he said.

"Sam gave him a beautiful ride. There was just a moment when I thought he needed a bit of daylight going down the hill, but he was very confident and he was very professional."

"All credit to Sam, this is not exactly his day job, but he never panicked.

"The big horses were all there and he had to get through them, and he did. It was a wonderful ride. It was a great race because all the horses have run great races - there's no disputing it.

"This horse is still only six, so there is a lot to look forward to with him yet.

"Kauto Star was probably at his best today, but Long Run is a very good young horse."

It was a second win of the day for Henderson after Bobs Worth and Barry Geraghty edged out stablemate Mossley in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty celebrate the win of Bobs Worth
Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty celebrate Bobs Worth's win

Paul Nicholls was full of praise for Zarkandar who maintained his unbeaten record over timber in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

In only his second run over hurdles after an impressive debut at Kempton, the 13-2 chance, ridden by Daryl Jacob, ran out an impressive two-and-a-quarter-length winner from the Irish filly Unaccompanied.

"Given the summer to strengthen up, he really could be anything. I've no doubts he could be a Champion Hurdle horse," said the Ditcheat handler.

"I was astounded with how he won at Kempton.

"He'd been going well at home but he'd been gelded and had taken a while to get over that.

"I just thought he might run well at Kempton, finish third or fourth, and then we'd put him away for the summer.

"But he's improved a massive amount from that run. Today he's travelled supremely and jumped. He picked them up the minute he wanted to and he's our little Hurricane Fly."

There was disappointment for amateur jockey Willy Twiston-Davies when he was unseated by the well-fancied Baby Run in the Christie's Foxhunter Chase two from home when well clear.

It handed the initiative to Derek O'Connor on the Zemsky (33-1) who went on to claim his second winner of the week.

Meanwhile, Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins finished as top jockey and trainer respectively after final-day success.

The pair combined on the 10-1 chance Final Approach in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle, edging out Tony McCoy and Get Me Out of Here in a dramatic photo-finish.

It gave Walsh his fifth win of the week while Mullins later claimed his fourth win of the meeting when the 9-2 favourite Sir Des Champs put in a late charge to win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.

Jockey Emmet Mullins, the nephew of Willie Mullins, kept the five-year-old in the rear but made steady progress late on to chase down Donald McCain's Son Of Flicka to win by half a length.

It followed the earlier wins for Hurricane Fly (Champion Hurdle) and Quevega (David Nicholson Mare's Hurdle) and saw him pip Paul Nicholls for the honour.

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see also
A golden year at Cheltenham
18 Mar 11 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham Festival - day four as it happened
18 Mar 11 |  Horse Racing
Kauto Star fails as Long Run wins
15 Jan 11 |  Horse Racing
Imperial Commander lands Gold Cup
19 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing

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