There has been much talk of Long Run’s performance in the Betfair Denman Chase mostly about how he will or won’t win a second Gold Cup. In three weeks’ time that particular argument will be settled. However the eye catcher of the race was Long Run’s stable mate Burton Port, who almost took the scalp of his famous friend after a race absence of fifteen months. Debate rages as to whether he would have won had he totally winged the last fence but that aside his second place put him firmly in the picture not just for steeplechasing’s Blue Riband but the Aintree Grand National 2012.
A graduate of the Irish point to point field; Burton Port looked a chaser with a future when taking the Reynoldstown Chase in 2010. He then followed up with a second to Weapons Amnesty in the RSA Chase at that year’s Cheltenham Festival, before going on to record a victory in the Grade Two Mildmay Chase at Aintree three weeks later. His seasonal debut for the 2010/11 National Hunt season saw him beaten 1¼ lengths into second by Diamond Harry in the Hennessy Gold Cup. It was after that performance that injury intervened.
It is understandable why Burton Port is now third favourite behind the big two – Long Run and Kauto Star – for the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup 2012 and why he is also third favourite for the Grand National. He is set to carry 11-7 at Liverpool, a weight which was carried to victory by Grakle in 1931 and Sundew in 1957. Aintree legend Red Rum carried a pound more in his famous third victory in 1977.
Burton Port is only eight, which is relatively young in Grand National terms. In the last twenty years only two eight year olds have won the world’s greatest steeplechase; Party Politics in 1992 and Bindaree in 2002.
Ten years on again will there be another eight year old in the shape of Nicky Henderson’s Burton Port that sends Merseyside into a frenzy?
Whatever the future holds for Burton Port, it is fantastic to see him back and he remains a real force to be reckoned with.