Horses To Follow » Burton Port

Burton Port

Burton Port ran a cracker on his first run for 447 days in the Denman Chase at Newbury on Friday, and he may well have beaten his stable companion Long Run had he met the last fence on a stride. He had to go in close to the last and pop it, which cost him a couple of lengths, but he was closing strongly again on the run-in to be beaten only half a length by the Gold Cup winner.

It is hard to believe that Burton Port will not come on for this run at least a little, his jumping should be sharper, he was a bit sticky at the cross fence on the first circuit and again at the open ditch down the back straight on the second circuit. He had reportedly been really pleasing in his work at Seven Barrows leading up to the race, but he had a big blow after the race according to trainer Nicky Henderson, and he could just be spot on for Cheltenham now, as long as he does not suffer from the bounce factor.

Trevor Hemmings’s horse was second in the RSA Chase two years ago, just edging out Long Run for that position on the line, giving 1lb weight-for-age allowance to Long Run. He was getting 10lb from the Gold Cup winner here, but it is entirely plausible that he can find 10lb improvement at Cheltenham, a course at which he has shown he can handle, and with this run under his belt. Much has been made this season of the amount of improvement we can expect from Long Run when he gets back to Cheltenham and faces the extra stamina-test of the Gold Cup, but Burton Port beat him over three miles in the RSA Chase, and should have at least as much improvement to come up in trip too having stayed on all the way up the run-in in last season’s Hennessy.

The disparity in price between Nicky Henderson’s two runners for the Gold Cup is still too big, even though the fancy prices about Burton Port are long gone. Intriguingly, the son of Bob Back also holds an entry in the Grand National, in which he will race off a mark of 158 if he takes his chance, and, given that he has already gone up to 166 following this comeback effort, a good run in the Gold Cup could make him a handicap snip if connections decide to go to Aintree with him afterwards. With four weeks and a day between the Gold Cup and the Grand National this year, that is not an altogether unviable option.

17th February 2012