Its the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the jewel in the Prestbury Park crown as last year’s winner Long Run comes up against Paul Nicholls and Kauto Star. Its sure to be a spectacle, as Paddy Power offer 2/1 odds against on Long Run while Kauto Star can be backed at 7/2.
There are plenty of other horses in with a shout, with Long Run’s stable mate Burton Port attracting plenty of attention at 15/2.
As last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner at just the age of six, Long Run had been expected to push on again this season, which, in truth, he has failed to do, and there are plenty of punters looking to oppose last year’s winner.
Despite his disappointments, he still has showed enough this season to merit being top of the betting market for the Gold Cup, which tells you a lot about the standard of this year’s race.
It seems as though nothing has sprung from the younger generation and the only one to improve enough to challenge Long Run this season has been 12-year-old Kauto Star.
The two have been embroiled in a real ding-dong battle on two occasions this season where Kauto Star, who had been all but written off when finishing third in last year’s Gold Cup, has come out on top on both occasions.
However, a return to the surroundings of Cheltenham should reverse the form between the two – according to the markets anyway and any Kauto Star fan will also have something to say about that too.
The re-emergence of the two-time Gold Cup winner has taken a lot of people by surprise, including the connections of Long Run, who would have gone through the season unbeaten if the Paul Nicholls’ trained superstar had decided that retirement was the next step on his to do list.
They first met in the Betfair Chase at Haydock where the world watched on in amazement as Kauto Star, who was pulled up at Punchestown on his previous start, bounced back to his best with a sublime round of jumping to thrash Long Run.
Nicky Henderson’s charge managed to get closer to Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase but still was beaten by a length and a half. He finally got his first win of the season at Newbury, where he held off a later surge by Burton’s Port to win by half a length.
The seven-year-old still heads the market for the Gold Cup and he should improve for the return to Cheltenham, but there are big reservations about his jumping ability and you would need to be brave to take a short price about Long Run defending his crown.