Long Run lifts second King George to vindicate Waley-Cohen

Amateur rider prevails after last-fence error to pick off Captain Chris in desperate duel to line

Kempton Park

Well, it certainly wasn't pretty. In fact, with each and every protagonist exuding fatigue even before the home turn, it took steeplechasing to the very margins of presentability. Yet somehow the verdict of Long Run's rider, with just about the first breath he could summon after pulling up the winner, did not seem incongruous. "That was racing at its best, to my mind," Sam Waley-Cohen said. "That's why we do it."

Certainly, there was nothing equivocal about Long Run's superiority here today, though he palpably explored the last seam of his stamina and courage in rallying for his second William Hill King George VI Chase in three years. One by one, all the other horses that had contested a reckless gallop had dropped away, floundering through what was officially the worst ground for this race since 1937. And their exertions could suddenly be measured by the emergence of Captain Chris, who had been miles off the pace before arriving to pick up the pieces in the home straight. With Waley-Cohen obliged to untangle his reins between the final two fences, Richard Johnson summoned a bold, opportunist leap from Captain Chris to take charge over the last. Long Run, in contrast, wearily fiddled his way across. The game was surely up now.

But, however Waley-Cohen's amateur status might occasionally betray itself, he is a match even for Johnson in terms of fitness and determination. And though the seasoned professional ended up pushing the whip regulations so far as to earn a nine-day suspension, Waley-Cohen still gained the day by a neck. The odd imperfection in his riding, after all, represents barely a lesion in his overall dash and élan. Few nowadays grumble about his eligibility to wear the silks of his father, Robert, on Long Run – a horse he now knows backwards. Horse and rider have contested four Grade One races round here on Boxing Day, after all, and failed only behind Kauto Star as he gained a record fifth success in this race last year.

This time, the retired champion was here only to lead the parade. Clive Smith and Paul Nicholls, his estranged owner and trainer, appeared to succeed in avoiding eye contact – never mind a public rapprochement – in the paddock and Kauto Star was led away after leading the field only as far as the winning post. The environment seemed so cheerless that perhaps even he no longer yearned to renew battle with his old rival, Long Run.

In apocalyptic murk, light pooled in the big screen and the luminous waterproofs of stewards as though from an alien galaxy, leaving the crowd otherwise squinting to follow the movement of muddy horses through the rainswept dusk. Cue Card's followers, already disheartened about the demands on his unproven stamina, despaired as he all but fell at the first. In fairness, he regrouped to cling to the leading group almost as far as the home turn. By this stage Waley-Cohen, prominent throughout, had already sent Long Run into the lead – only for a shuddering error five out to allow the splendidly game Champion Court to hint briefly at a shock. The outsider saw off Grands Crus, who had gone best for longest, but paid the price as he fell apart in the straight, leaving Long Run to that punch-drunk duel with Captain Chris.

Its outcome crowned another fabulous day for Nicky Henderson, whose four winners leave him hot favourite to relieve Nicholls of the trainers' championship. Coral promoted Darlan to 5-1 joint favourite with Hurricane Fly for the Champion Hurdle, from 8-1, after his devastating comeback in the Christmas Hurdle, while Long Run will now attempt to follow up in the Gold Cup, as he did two years ago. Having been so precocious, he will somehow represent the old guard against his emerging stablemate, Bobs Worth – even though both will only turn eight on New Year's Day.

Henderson felt that Long Run had vindicated himself, after many perceived an incipient decline last winter – and likewise, his rider. "They both have, in spades," Henderson said. "And with great guts. It was a brave call for Sam to go on when he did, but I think it was the right thing to do. Without Kauto, the door was open, but it was still hard work. It was a battle out there today."

If ridden by a cavalry officer manqué, Long Run here proved himself a proper tank. "I tried to take the sting out of them, but probably asked him too much," Waley-Cohen said. "He was tired, but he was so brave. It's just an honour and a privilege to ride him."

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Dream Risk (7.30 Wolverhampton) Shaped well on her debut for Brian Ellison over an inadequate trip in the summer and, having won a couple of hurdle races, looks well treated back on the Flat.

Next best

Rose Garnet (5.30 Wolverhampton) Thriving for Tony Carroll, landing good support over this trip last month and then just failing to get up when dropped to 5f at Lingfield last week.

One to watch

Rysbrack (Paul Webber) Did well to hang in there with some smart prospects in the novice hurdle at Kempton yesterday, showing ability before fading into fourth.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?