James Lawton: Youth has its day as Long Run's brilliance ushers in a new order

It was everything you would have wanted on a sunlit diamond of an afternoon – and then a little more.

If you wanted courage and power and the possibility of heroic resistance to the passage of the years by two great champions, it was yours by the courtesy of Denman and Kauto Star. But if you wanted to be reminded of how it is that history is made, and a new order is imposed, well, you had that too.

You had it in the brilliant and powerful Long Run – at a mere six years old the youngest Gold Cup winner since the superior champion of 1963, Mill House.

Long Run was beautiful in his power on a beautiful day. He was also indomitable in the way of a natural-born winner and when he moved with absolute authority away from the 11-year-old stars as they cleared the last fence and engaged the rising ground there was one certainty that separated him from his predecessor by 48 years.

Mill House, for all the class he had shown, was engulfed in a year by the great Arkle who is still regarded as the most phenomenal of Cheltenham winners. It is not likely, this side of some celestial union of the finest equine bloodlines, that the young horse which so thrilled and enthralled the Gloucestershire valley yesterday will be so easily challenged.

Indeed, there was more than a sniff of a new empire when 28-year-old jockey Sam Waley-Cohen raised his arm in triumph at the winning post.

Perhaps we should rephrase that. Maybe we should say, when Mr Sam Waley-Cohen raised his arm, because it was not the least glory of the day that when Long Run twice brushed hazardously against two obstacles it was not a master rider like Ruby Walsh, the pilot of Kauto Star, or A P McCoy, aboard the Irish hope Kempes, who was required to steady him down – and then drive him home.

Yes, Mr Waley-Cohen is an amateur but that status was about his preferred means of income – he earns his money in London as an accumulator of private dental practices – and no reflection on either his nous or his nerve.

Certainly, it was easy to understand why he is so respected by the likes of Walsh and McCoy. He rides with the strength and conviction of an old cavalry officer who has seen plenty of action. Thus it was quite some time before the finish when we knew that if Long Run failed it would not be because of any inadequacies in the man who sat on his back.

But then it was inconceivable that either the horse – an extremely expensive buy in France by the jockey's father – or his partner would fall short on the day of their greatest challenge.

Kauto Star, who enchanted the nation with his Gold Cup wins in 2007 and 2009, made the first effort to put youth in its place, and was quickly followed by Denman, who never beguiled the people but won their deepest respect with the power of his running in 2008. But if the veterans could make a show, remind us of what they meant so recently, they could not really take eyes away from the relentless progress of their young rival, no more than the defending champion Imperial Commander.

Denman and Kauto Star followed Long Run home and Imperial Commander was pulled up by his jockey Paddy Brennan. The beaten champion had burst a blood vessel.

The challenger was too strong and his rider was always in the centre of our gaze in his brown and orange colours. This was not the most charming fashion statement but behind it was a resolve that was unshakeable.

Waley-Cohen knew he had reached the crossroads of his competitive life when Long Run hit the fifth fence – and some aficionados suspected that the horse's early, lower-slung jumping experience in France might undo him here.

But then the crisis had passed almost before it registered and afterwards Waley-Cohen said: "It was do-or-die at some of those fences and I went up in the air wondering quite how we would land. I thought, 'You'll be eating grass if you don't pick up but in the end it came down to stamina, not speed – and he had the courage and the youth to get up the hill."

Going down to the last fences Denman's jockey Sam Thomas had a brief vision of the glory he had known three years earlier, when his horse was too strong for Kauto Star. "I knew I had Ruby [on Kauto Star] beat and I thought Long Run was struggling, which gave me a bit of hope, but it wasn't to be.

"My fellow was struggling a bit on the first circuit because they were going so quick and I had to kid him along, but I knew he would wing down the hill and grab hold of the bridle.

"Every jockey needs a horse like this and I'm happy grateful to have got to ride him."

Walsh, the master strategist who started the great meeting so superbly on the first day with three wins and had perfect rides in the Champion Hurdle and World Hurdle on Hurricane Fly and Big Buck's, knew a little earlier that the story of Kauto Star was coming to a close.

Walsh said: "He's run his heart out but age caught up with him. He did nothing wrong."

Except, perhaps, linger into the time of a new champion, younger, stronger and with everything before him.

You saw the new shift of racing history going into the last fence. Kauto Star was running from memory and Denman suddenly realised that beating his old rival was fine and honourable but not to be compared with resisting this new challenge.

Waley-Cohen drove Long Run to the final barrier, and then felt the re-assuring strength, the sense that in the end the young horse had devoured all his rivals. It was a fine and noble field but it was outstripped on this day of a new force and a fresh champion.

No, you couldn't have wished for more.

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Operative - Oxfordshire / Worcestershire - OTE £30k

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Sales Operative is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders