Robert Waley-Cohen’s King George VI chase winning gelding, Long Run, was the 7-2 favourite heading into the 83rd running of this famous face. The horse and his jockey, Robert’s son, Sam Waley-Cohen managed to lived up to this billing in style, beating a stellar field by 7 lengths.
A field of 13 that contained no fewer than three previous Gold Cup winners stood waiting for the off with the always-feverish Prestbury Park baying for the action to start.
And They’re Off
From the off, it was 9-1 shot Midnight Chase ridden by Tom Scudamore that made the pace with the assembled field all vying for position in behind. Midnight Chase led for the whole of the first circuit as the mounts of Ruby Walsh, Paddy Brennan and Sam Thomas, back riding Denman again, all jostled for the best position from which to strike.
Even as late as the 3rd fence from home, all of the major threats were still in with a shout of winning the race, as 2010 winner Imperial Commander, Ruby Walsh on double-winner 5-1, 3rd favourite Kauto Star and stablemate Denman, the 2008 winner were all neck and neck.
Heading to the last, fierce rivals Denman and Kauto Star threatened to turn it into a 2 horse race for the line, but Sam Waley-Cohen on Long Run was having none of it. Jumping the last fence the better of the three contenders, the way was clear for Robert Waley-Cohen’s young horse to take the £270k prize.
A Brace of Records
In claiming the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, two new records were set. The first was being the youngest gelding to win the prestigious race since Mill House in 1963 and the second was Sam Waley-Cohen becoming the first amateur jockey to become Gold Cup champion since Jim Wilson on Little Owl in 1981.
Jockey Waley-Cohen was ecstatic in the winners’ enclosure:
“That’s a very special feeling and he’s a very special horse. He’s a whole lot better than I thought he was. I want to say thank you to everyone for believing in me and the horse.”
It was also a momentous day for the winning trainer, Nicky Henderson, who enjoyed his first Gold Cup win and his 39th festival success in total, making him the all-time leading trainer at the meeting.
Friday March 18, 2011 had witnessed one of the most exciting Cheltenham Gold Cup chases in history and it was won in style by the 7-2 favourite, much to the joy of trainer, owner, jockey and the huge 65,000 Cheltenham crowd.
It would be remembered for some years to come.