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Last Updated: 13/03/12 8:33am
Long Run: Workmanlike victory at Newbury on Friday
Long Run's connections declared themselves thoroughly satisfied after the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero continued his Festival preparations with a workmanlike victory at Newbury.
After defeating old warriors Denman and Kauto Star in the blue riband last March, it seemed Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old was ready to dominate the staying chase division for years to come.
Things have not gone exactly to script, with a rejuvenated Kauto Star rediscovering his very best form and galloping Long Run into submission in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
But with the legendary staying chaser heading straight to the Festival, Long Run had a gilt-edged chance to get back to winning ways in the rescheduled Betfair Denman Chase.
And for much of the three-mile journey, all went swimmingly.
Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen was happy to take a lead off The Giant Bolster and when that one weakened, 4-7 favourite Long Run eased to the front.
But stablemate Burton Port, making his first start in well over a year, and the enigmatic What A Friend made ground to make a real race of it after the final fence.
Burton Port in particular ran a barnstorming race and got to within half a length of Long Run at the line - albeit in receipt of 10lb.
Waley-Cohen said: "That was just what we wanted. I was really pleased with his jumping. He was a little careless with the water (jump), but apart from that he's jumped really well. You couldn't ask for more from a seasoned chaser.
"That is exactly the confidence boost you want to go to the Gold Cup with.
"We took the earplugs out but I'm not sure that made a big difference.
"In a funny way, he felt like a different horse altogether today.
"In the paddock he was more alert and looking more up for it and he's just gone out there and done it really well.
"We went a right good gallop and, if anything, I think we've learnt how to set him up for a fence when you are going that big quicker."
Henderson added: "Sam said there was loads there and he was enjoying himself.
"He jumped great and he's taken him there tanking on the bit.
"He was much more fluent today.
"Burton Port has been amazing us all. He will run in the Gold Cup as well and he's been working completely differently to two years ago.
"He's a stone better than he ever was before."
Robert Waley-Cohen, the jockey's father and winning owner, said: "It's a huge relief. We were giving a lot of weight to some very good horses.
"He did it really well and jumped absolutely fantastically. Hopefully we can do away with the careless jumping now for the rest of his career.
"I couldn't be happier as he was giving 10lb to some good horses and he will be meeting them at level weights (in the Gold Cup).
"Does he need to improve to beat Kauto Star? It's hard to tell. It's a different trip. He beat Kauto Star last year, maybe it's a different Kauto Star that's going to turn up this year.
"On that performance you would say Long Run and Kauto Star are the two that are going to be battling it out up the famous hill at Cheltenham.
"Sam said he was idling today and there was plenty left.
"He looked a far bouncier and happier horse in the paddock."
Paddy Power eased Long Run a fraction to 9-4 from 2-1 to retain his Gold Cup crown, while Burton Port has unsurprisingly been slashed to 8-1 from 25-1.