The Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2011 featured thirteen runners, including Imperial Commander, Kauto Star and Denman, who had won the last four renewals of the ‘Blue Riband’ event between them. Favourite, though, was Long Run, a six-year-old owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and trained by Nicky Henderson, 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 the previous January. Long Run had been beaten on both previous appearances at Cheltenham, including when third in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010, but was nevertheless sent off at 7/2, ahead of reigning champion Imperial Commander at 4/1 and Kauto Star at 5/1.
Of the market leaders, Imperial Commander was the only one who failed to run his race, weakening out of contention after blundering at the fourth-last fence and eventually being pulled up and dismounted. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ ten-year-old was subsequently found to be lame on his left-fore and in a distressed condition.
Kauto Star, ridden by regular partner Ruby Walsh, attempted to take the race by the scruff of the neck just after halfway and, turning in, was involved in a protracted duel with stable companion Denman. However, the Paul Nicholls-trained pair was joined at the second last by Long Run, who hit the front on the approach to the final fence and stayed on strongly to beat Denman by 7 lengths. Kauto Star faded on the run-in to finish third, a further 4 lengths way.
Victory for Long Run was a first in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Nicky Henderson and made winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, son of owner Robert, the first amateur rider to win the prestigious race since Jim Wilson, aboard Little Owl, in 1981. Furthermore, Long Run became the first six-year-old since Mill House, in 1963, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.