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Conti comes of age but Gold Cup will be very different test.

Byline: Alastair Down says the initial reaction to the Betfair Chase outcome is a little over the top

AFASCINATING Betfair Chase with the victorious Silviniaco Conti suddenly as low as 5-1 for the Gold Cup and Long Run out to 10-1. Both prices have to be overreactions.

And it doesn't take anything away from Silviniaco Conti to say he got the run of the race thanks to a well-nigh flawless ride from Ruby Walsh, who on this showing would be a shoo-in for the lead in a remake of The Great Dictator.

He bossed the race off a non-existent early pace and, by god, he drew some leaps out of Silviniaco Conti, who won this with his jumping above everything else.

On the couple of occasions when he might not have been going into a fence on a perfect stride, Ruby just left him alone to put himself spot-on and the accuracy and speed of his jumping put extra pressure on his rivals on the second circuit.

From the moment Ruby allowed himself the luxury of a long look back at his rivals as they began the turn out of the back straight for the final time, you knew this lay between the leader and Long Run, and although the Waley-Cohen horse got to within about a length at the second-last, it never truly looked as if he would pick Silviniaco Conti up.

Ruby had been allowed to keep some reserves in the locker and they had the mastery up the run-in to win by two and a half lengths with The Giant Bolster four and a half further back in third.

I confess to being slightly baffled by where Long Run now stands and his critics are steadily building a case against him. The chief witness for the prosecution is that cold fish the form book, who will testify that since Long Run's 2011 Gold Cup triumph he has been beaten in four of his five races. His sole victory was in a Grade 2 at Newbury where Burton Port could well have mugged him if the afterburner had been lit earlier.

Increasingly Long Run is being sniped at with some fairly cheap shots - Sam Waley-Cohen very much in the cross-hairs. Some high-stool judges, peering through the froth of their pints, insist the amateur is not up to the job. This viewpoint blithely ignores the small detail that this is the same Sam Waley-Cohen who won a King George and a Gold Cup on Long Run and made a right good job of it.

If Sam lacks anything it is match practice as, over the last three seasons, his number of rides has been 22, 30 and 23. Long Run was his fifth this season. That's how it is with amateurs.

I recall one of the joys of his Gold Cup victory being that in no other sport could an amateur triumph at the highest level in such a fiendishly dangerous activity against grizzled professionals.

If Sam was a good thing for the sport in 2011, then he is now. Would Long Run be better with Ruby on? Of course he would - but so would every other horse and Walsh can only ride one at a time. If punters don't like an amateur on Long Run they are free to factor that into their calculations and live or die by it.

Long Run now heads for the King George in which he ran a blinder last year. There looks to be plenty of two-and-a-half-mile horses in the race - if they go like stink that could turn it into a stamina test, which would suit Long Run. To me he is lacking a bit of the spark of old but at this stage you have to give him the benefit of the doubt. There is no way he should be written off yet.

As for Silviniaco Conti, all you can say is that Paul Nicholls must take a big size in hats as he keeps pulling horses rather than rabbits out of them. Paul is tempted to go straight to the Gold Cup as the six-year-old is best fresh. He would always have the option of the end-of-January trials meeting if he felt some experience over Cheltenham fences would be another string to his bow.

YOU could only admire the winner's performance,but the Gold Cup is very different to the sedate rate they went here. That said, he is a horse with time on his side and could well be something worthy of the succession down Ditcheat way.

Much the most alarming news yesterday was the announcement that John Smith's is pulling the plug on its Grand National sponsorship after this season's race. The fact that it is continuing with its Flat sponsorship tells you that its disenchantment is with the National itself, not racing as a whole.

The exact details of the pressure put on the Heineken main board will doubtless trickle out, but they clearly see the Grand National as having significant potential downsides in the event of further fatalities.

If the Grand National is suddenly seen as tainted goods in commercial terms it is a hugely potent threat to the race and I fear Aintree may face the devil's own job finding a replacement sponsor from outside the betting industry.

Our most famous race was not holed below the waterline yesterday, but it took an incendiary hit on its superstructure and fires could take a hell of a lot of damping down.


How Alastair Down advised followers to back 10-1 winner Trustan Times in yesterday's Racing Post

Kauto Star leads the parade for the Betfair Chase yesterday after a statue commemorating his four wins in the race was unveiled
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 25, 2012
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