It’s 12 months since amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen (29) won a memorable Gold Cup aboard Long Run. Much has happened since then with many pundits and punters writing off Kauto Star only for him to bounce back better than ever, beating the reigning champion twice in the process.
But the feeling remains that Long Run’s campaign has been slowly building towards this day. A welcome confidence booster at Newbury last time, in which Waley-Cohen rode his first winner since that famous day 12 months ago was obviously a huge relief
Then the news that rejuvenated arch-rival Kauto Star had suffered a schooling accident two weeks ago seemed to swing the pendulum firmly back in Long Run’s favour. But Waley-Cohen, who comes from a privileged background has a day job overseeing a thriving dental business seems relaxed and confident as he and Long Run prepare to defend their crown.
The horse is owned by Waley-Cohen’s father Robert. “It was a magical year and if I could extend it for longer I would,” he said. “The main thing is to make sure you enjoy it because there a re good days and bad days.” His brother Thomas died from cancer aged 20 in 2004.
“Newbury (where he scrambled home from stable-mate Burton Port) was just what the doctor ordered. It was exactly what we were looking for.”
A self-confessed, addicted, thrill-seeker, Waley-Cohen has tried hang-gliding, parachuting, bungee jumping, white-water rafting and mountaineering. Mont Blanc and Mount Etna are among his conquests. But even he sees the danger of going into Friday’s race making too many assumptions.
“A true run contest will suit us, that will mean it’s a proper Championship Gold Cup. Last year he broke the course record. If he can deliver a mid or low 180s performance (on the race ratings) you’d hope that would be good enough. The difference this year is that we know he can do it. Last year we were hoping,” he said.
“He’s a great champion. What people want is a fair-run fight and that all horses come here and run their race and the best horse wins.”
Listen to the audio of this interview below…