Fingers crossed for Cheltenham triumph

By Stephen Pollard, March 10, 2011

The 361-day countdown is almost over. On Tuesday, the Cheltenham Festival begins: the four greatest days of the year.

For any racing fan - to my mind, any real sports fan - there is nothing that comes close to Cheltenham.

It has everything: the best sporting competion, Corinthianism, professionalism, bravery, beauty, fun, passion and - last but not remotely least - the chance to win some money (and, of course, a greater likelihood of losing far more).

But you tend not to associate Cheltenham with Jewish sporting triumph. Or even, to be blunt, Jewish participation.

This year will be different. Because there is every chance that the biggest race of the year, Friday's Gold Cup, will be won by Long Run, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen and owned by his father, Robert.

There could be a Jewish racing double - of sorts

Last year, Long Run was disappointing in his novice race at Cheltenham. But his trainer, Nicky Henderson, now feels that he was over the top for the season.

Things have been very different this season. After a promising first run at Cheltenham's October meeting, he produced a commanding victory in the King George at Kempton at Christmas.

Not the least impressive aspect of that display was the superb ride given by his amateur jockey, a ride of which any professional would have been proud. So here's my first tip: ignore the sneering from the supposed cognescenti that Waley-Cohen is a drag on Long Run's chances and help yourself to the 6-1 generally available, and then cheer home a Jewish winner.

There could well be a Jewish double, of sorts. One of the most popular bets here at the JC last year was Menorah in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. And those who backed him because of his name were rewarded with a 12-1 victory.

This season Menorah has been even more impressive in his warm up races, and he's a top price 9-2 to win the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday.

Last updated: 10:05am, March 14 2011