Updated: 29/02/2012 10:28 | By pa.press.net

Henderson foresees Gold Cup epic

Trainer Nicky Henderson with Long Run

Trainer Nicky Henderson with Long Run

Nicky Henderson's view of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup does not differ vastly from the bookmakers, with the trainer predicting an ultra-close fifth clash between Long Run and Kauto Star.

Last season was dominated by Henderson's Long Run, when he crushed the rival five years his senior in both the King George and Gold Cup, but the regenerated veteran has exacted brutal revenge this winter.

Eight lengths separated the pair in the Betfair Chase at Haydock before Long Run narrowed the gap to a length and a quarter at Kempton on Boxing Day, and Henderson has noted the enthusiastic vibes coming from Kauto Star's trainer, Paul Nicholls. While Long Run was not particularly impressive in beating stablemate Burton Port in his warm-up at Newbury less than a fortnight ago, he remains the sponsors' 9-4 favourite over 3-1 Kauto Star.

"I don't think there's any doubt this is a different horse to the one we were playing with last year," Henderson said of Kauto Star.

"I think he was going through a patch last year and people were baying for his retirement. I wish Paul had listened! He has even avoided going through the final fence now - he has put the whole thing together.

"At Kempton we were only beaten a couple of lengths and had Long Run really winged the last we might have got it down. Ruby (Walsh) has really put the turbo on early with Kauto this year and (Cheltenham) is a different track to do it on. We were two-love up and now it's two-all and it's going to be a very interesting battle. I've a nasty feeling public opinion will go with the old favourite and I'll be very unpopular if we beat him. Last year was a great Gold Cup. It's all to play for and I don't think there's much between them."

One weapon Henderson has up his sleeve is the use of earplugs, which the French-bred has often worn during races.

He added: "He will have them for the parade, as we want to block that out, but they will come off in the race. He's in good form. He came out of Newbury well and did his first bit of work this morning. He'll do one bit with (jumping guru) Yogi Breisner next week and he won't see a fence between now and then."

Seven Barrows suddenly boasts another Gold Cup contender in Burton Port, who closed to just half a length behind Long Run at Newbury when in receipt of 10lb. However, it was his first start for a year and a quarter and Henderson is wary of the 'bounce factor' - when horses run well on their return from a lay-off but fail to back it up the next time.

The trainer went on: "We got the impression he had improved at home and we weren't surprised how he ran. He got 10lb at Newbury and he's got to improve more than that, but I think there is improvement. We've just got to pray there's no dreaded 'bounce'. No-one has been able to explain it, but it does happen and you have to be wary about it. But he does look fantastic."

Get the Bing Sports App for Windows 8 (© Microsoft)

latest horse-racing news

  • Snow Fairy eclipses Nathaniel at Leopardstown

    Snow Fairy gained a dazzling success over Nathaniel in the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

  • Chachamaidee

    Duntle lost the race in the stewards' room to Sir Henry Cecil's Chachamaidee following a dramatic running of the Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.

  • Kieren Fallon takes the Sprint Cup on Society Rock  right

    Society Rock lifted the Group One Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock Park for James Fanshawe and Kieren Fallon.

  • Dandino

    Dandino ran on strongly to claim Group Three spoils in the Betfred Mobile September Stakes at Kempton.

  • Thistle Bird gets the better of Fulbright  right

    Thistle Bird landed her third Listed success of the season with a game win in the Celebrating 45 Years Of Betfred Superior Mile at Haydock.

  • Havana Gold  right  lands the spoils

    Havana Gold made amends for an unlucky run at Deauville when landing the Betfred 'Still Treble Odds On Lucky 15's' Stakes at Haydock Park.

  • Sir Graham Wade  left  gets up in the Old Borough Cup

    Kieren Fallon followed up his Betfred Sprint Cup win on Society Rock when getting Sir Graham Wade home in the final strides to claim the Betfred Mobile Lotto Old Borough Cup at Haydock.

  • Dermot Weld

    Big Break put herself in the picture for a step up in class when impressing in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden at Leopardstown.

  • Saddler's Rock

    A strong Irish presence features among the 17 possible runners in the Stobart Doncaster Cup on Town Moor on Friday.

  • Nahrain

    Nahrain aims to get her season back on track in the Irresistible Jewel Blandford Stakes at the Curragh.

  • Joseph O'Brien

    Joseph O'Brien is not expecting any fireworks from Declaration Of War as he makes his Irish debut in the Refuse To Bend Solonaway Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.

  • Roger Varian

    Roger Varian will not be making any hasty decisions over running plans for Lanansaak.

  • Duntle

    Duntle continued her rapid progression with a thrilling victory in the Group One Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.

  • Estimate

    The Queen's Royal Ascot winner Estimate is among 17 entries for the DFS Park Hill Stakes over the full St Leger course at Doncaster on Thursday.

  • St Nicholas Abbey

    Connections of St Nicholas Abbey are excited about his chances in the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown today after the five-year-old predictably took a back seat against Frankel at York last time.