The 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup was the most competitive renewal of the prestigious steeplechase for many a year, with the winners from the three previous years, Imperial Commander, Kauto Star and Denman once again in opposition. That trio, though, were only second, third and fourth choice in the betting market, behind favourite Long Run, who arrived at Prestbury Park fresh from a comfortable 12-length victory over stable companion Riverside Theatre in the rearranged King George VI Chase at Kempton two months earlier.
Still only a six-year-old, Long Run was ridden by accomplished amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, as he had been when beaten, but not disgraced, in the RSA Chase on his first attempt at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010. On that occasion he had made series of mistakes and his jumping was, once again, less than foot-perfect in what was, far and away, his toughest test to date.
From the fourth-last fence, soon after the turn at the top of the hill, Imperial Commander blundered and soon weakened out of contention, leaving Kauto Star and Denman to make the best of their way home. The two former winners were involved in a protracted duel from the home turn, but on the approach to the final fence it became clear that Long Run had the measure of both of them. On the long, stamina-sapping climb to the winning line, the ‘young pretender’ quickly put daylight between himself an his rivals, passing the post 7 lengths ahead of Denman, with Kauto Star a fading third, 4 lengths further behind.
Victory for Long Run was a first in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Nicky Henderson and the first for a six-year-old since Mill House – who was, at the time, widely considered the best steeplechaser since Golden Miller in the Thirties – in 1963.Winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen became the first amateur jockey since Jim Wilson on Little Owl, in 1981, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.