Long Run heads to Aintree

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The Independent Online

The new chasing king, Long Run, is enjoying a weekend off but the good news for his growing army of fans is that he may be back in action before the season's end. The near-black gelding emerged from his stable yesterday morning with barely a hair turned after his stunning record-time Gold Cup defeat of the two former Cheltenham champions, Denman and Kauto Star and a trip to Aintree next month beckons.

"He looks just fantastic," said trainer Nicky Henderson as the six-year-old posed in the sunshine at Seven Barrows stable on the Lambourn Downs. "He has lost some weight, about 15 kilos, which might be a bit more than you'd expect, but if you've galloped three and a quarter miles round Cheltenham faster than anyone else has, perhaps that's not surprising. He's having today off to eat some grass, and he'll do the same tomorrow. We'll wait a week or so to see how he is, but Aintree is on the list of considerations."

Long Run, whose target would be the Totesport Bowl on the first day of the Grand National meeting, did nothing much more yesterday than eat carrots proffered by his rider Sam Waley-Cohen, who was still enjoying the moment. "It was a ferocious pace," he said yesterday. "I suddenly realised I was checking on horses like Kauto Star, Denman, Imperial Commander, and that brought home to me just what a great race I was in."

Whereas Waley-Cohen, 28, will be back at work tomorrow; he is chief executive of the dental practices company Portman Healthcare, plenty of other Cheltenham combatants had to get on with their day jobs yesterday in the more mundane surroundings of Uttoxeter, where 21-year-old Conor O'Farrell capped his own dream week by winning the Midlands Grand National on 25-1 shot Minella Four Star, two days after taking the Pertemps Final on another from the David Pipe stable, Buena Vista.

The 5lb claimer sent Minella Four Star to the front going to the final circuit of the gruelling four and a quarter mile test. The chestnut jumped beautifully for his young rider, who was winning only his second chase. "At each fence he took a gulp of air and headed for the next," he said, "He was just relentless."

The pair came in 11 lengths clear of Ballyfitz who caught Synchronised close home, with the winner's stablemate, Gentle Ranger, the only other finisher. Synchronised was given a classically determined ride by Tony McCoy ride after getting behind early, but the Festival's leading rider Ruby Walsh was on the floor at the second fence. Happily his mount Tricky Trickster, who lay ominously inert for the duration of the race, eventually regained his feet.