Long Run tipped to win Cheltenham Gold Cup by Scamblesby horse trainer Steve Gollings
SCAMBLESBY horse trainer Steve Gollings has tipped Long Run to recapture his form and win a second Cheltenham Gold Cup amid tricky conditions.
Tomorrow's showpiece, which takes place at the famous Gloucestershire racecourse, is likely to present the competitors with much softer ground than usual.
And Gollings, who knows a thing or two about Cheltenham winners – he trained 1998 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Trophy champion In Truth – thinks poor recent weather could have an impact on the pecking order this year.
He said: "Bob's Worth is the favourite and a very, very good horse – but he wouldn't be my choice, although Nicky Henderson has got a strong hand in the race.
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"The overwhelming factor this year is the weather. There have been inspections, and the covers have featured quite heavily already.
"The ground is going to be soft. And, for what historically has been good ground – with no excuses for the jockeys and horses – there will be some inconvenience.
"It's a difficult one to call as a result, and none of them are a foregone conclusion. I have a sneaky feeling that Long Run will run really well."
Should Long Run repeat his 2011 success, it will further cement his place in Cheltenham Festival history – winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen was the first amateur for 30 years to clinch the coveted finale.
Comparable to a lower league team winning the FA Cup, Gollings insists the Festival evokes similar sentiments for horse racing fans.
He said: "There is no doubt anywhere that Cheltenham is the pinnacle of the jump racing season. It is completely unique – it's shoulder to shoulder stuff.
"All the hardened national racing public tend to go there.
"It really is a fabulous week, and the Irish come over by the plenty.
"It is a key part of the racing season. In football you have got Wembley and the cup finals. This is the cup final for race horses."
Despite the hype surrounding Gold Cup Friday, Gollings watched closely as his favourite event – the Champion's Day on Tuesday – drew up some interesting results.
The local trainer backed Simonsig ahead of victory in the Arkle Trophy, but his Champion Hurdle prediction Zarkandar fell short of eventually winner Hurricane Fly.
Overall, the opening day belonged to jockey Ruby Walsh, who claimed an impressive hat-trick of Cheltenham wins to delight the Irish support.
AS the Cheltenham Festival continues to shape up, trainer Steve Gollings recalls his memories of equine superstar In Truth.
The horse, who sadly passed away in January at the age of 25, remains the area's only successful runner at the historic Gloucestershire track.
Romping to victory in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Trophy in 1998, In Truth gave Gollings and his Highfield House yard 'the best days of our racing career'.
Known as 'Ginge' at the Lincolnshire base – where he spent 14 years in retirement – In Truth could have enjoyed a more fruitful career but for his anxiety problem, often caused when he was taken away from familiar surroundings.
A 20/1 victory under Seamus Durack, the horse will live forever in local racing folklore.
Gollings said: "In Truth was a great local horse. It was, of course, quite a big occasion at the time – he was really magnificent.
"We had him cremated and are thinking about scattering the ashes at Market Rasen. It is important to remember him, because In Truth was a fantastic runner.
"There are a lot of trainers that never have a horse good enough to race at Cheltenham. But, more to the point, not many train a successful winner like him."
Festival winner Gollings says 2011 champ can relive triumph in Gold Cup shootout