This evening Tony McCoy is just eight winners short of 4,000 while just seven are declared for Wetherby's Charlie Hall which still has a typically trappy look to it.
On ratings Long Run has something in hand over the field with connections reporting their charge has come to hand earlier this year. That said, he hasn't won on his seasonal debut in the past three years (third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2010 followed by two consecutive seconds in Haydock's Betfair Chase) and there's always the possibility he'll throw in the odd howler on the way round. At the price he's worth taking on.
Plenty will fancy Unioniste to take advantage but the form of Paul Nicholls' stable is a concern. At Chepstow last Saturday a number of the stable's leading fancies fell by the wayside - Just A Par (4/7f) had no answer to Shotgun Paddy; Ceasar Milan (11/8f) trailed in last of the seven (was reported to have bled after the race); Virak (11/1) came home last (reported to have choked turning into the home straight); and Rebel Rebellion (7/4f) came home fifth of six (vet reported gelding had lost a near fore shoe). Since then the stable has recorded one win from 12 (Southfield Theatre [4/5f] at Wincanton on Sunday) while 1/3 favourite Vicente failed to see out his race on that same Wincanton card.
There wasn't much between Harry Topper and Benefficient in a Newbury novice last year but on official ratings the Irish horse looks to have the edge here and he has the added advantage of having had a run six weeks ago.
Cape Tribulation never troubled the principals in the Gold Cup last March finishing fifth (Long Run third) but previously had won the Rowland Meyrick over course and distance on Boxing Day and a month later had added the Argento Chase to the haul just for good measure.
At the time of writing Cape Tribulation is best-priced 7/1 and Benefficient 8/1 so Benefficient is put up as a value wager against the market leaders.
And moving swiftly on to Ascot's United House Gold Cup at 3.20...
Five weeks ago Emma Lavelle's Bouggler won a competitive-looking handicap chase at Market Rasen with head in chest. Out of that race Al Co has since won a Chepstow Class 2 handicap (12/1), Grandads Horse a Wetherby Class 3 handicap (2/1), Wiesentraum a Fakenham Class 3 handicap (7/1), Twirling Magnet a Class 2 Cheltenham novice (7/1) while Rob Conti, second at Market Rasen, has finished second behind Johns Spirit in another Class 2 handicap at Cheltenham (16/1).
Granted, this represents a step up in class for Bouggler (as well as Al Co and Twirling Magnet who re-oppose), but the trainer states 'Bouggler is working as well now as he ever has so I hope there's another big chase prize in him.' Weekender 16-20.10.13, p.14.
In the Weekender Stable Tour the following week (23 - 27.10.13) Lavelle says of her charge:
'When you win at £50k handicap by four and a half lengths then you expect to be punished, so the 10lb rise was fair. However he had been dropped 4lb before then, so theoretically he is only 6lb worse of now and he has come out of it very well.'
Added to that, tomorrow's pilot G. Sheehan can claim another three pounds.
Of course, this an ultra-competitive event; the field contains several interesting youngsters including Opening Batsman, Buddy Bolero,Triolo D'Alene, Same Difference and Houblon Des Obeaux.
Over the past decade horses aged eight or older have tended to take the spoils so Bouggler is the selection and at 9/1 with Stan James can be backed each-way (a quarter the odds four places provided 16 start).
However I suspect this could just be a step too far for Al Co who has to come from right off the pace - after that Chepstow win, trainer Peter Bowen said 'The key to him is to wait, wait and then wait again. He also doesn't like to be crowded.' The question is - will he be close enough coming off the home turn to make up the ground?