Long Run: will school with cheekpieces on for first time on FridayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Long Run set to school in cheekpieces on Friday
CONNECTIONS of 2011 Gold Cup hero Long Run are on Friday likely to know more about whether the fitting of cheekpieces at Cheltenham in two weeks' time could help the eight-year-old to regain jump racing's most prestigious prize.
Long Run, who will go into the £550,000 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup a fresh horse, having not run since winning the King George at Kempton for a second time, will school over fences in cheekpieces for the first time on Friday morning.
Trainer Nicky Henderson, owner Robert Waley-Cohen and his son Sam, who rides Long Run, are contemplating running their charge with headgear in a bid to liven him up at the end of the 3m2½f slog. The move would come with a risk of Long Run being set alight too early and using up crucial stamina reserves before push comes to shove.
Their potential will be witnessed on the trainer's gallops on Friday and Sam Waley-Cohen told the Racing Post: "He normally schools very well so in some ways it would be hard for him to school better than he does. It's more of an education to see that he doesn't have an adverse reaction.
"He is a bit keen in the early stages of his races, which suggests he doesn't particularly want them, but then towards the end of the race he probably does want them. We have to balance the two. It will probably be a decision that is made relatively late."
Long Run is general 6-1 fourth favourite for the Gold Cup, though there is little to choose between him, stablemate Bobs Worth, Sir Des Champs and Silviniaco Conti at the head of the market.
Long Run won his Gold Cup on good ground but handles heavy conditions well, as he showed at Kempton on December 26.
What the going will be come March 15 remains to be seen, as while dry weather will continue over the weekend and into the early part of next week, thereafter the forecast contains rain, and clerk of the course Simon Claisse has all but ruled out any need to water.
The official going at Cheltenham was on Thursday soft, good to soft in places. Claisse said: "Things are not drying out rapidly because the temperature remains relatively cool and we remain soft, good to soft in places on all three tracks.
"Our forecast tells us we will remain dry until rain arrives towards the end of next week."