Long Run won the King George in emphatic fashion two seasons agoPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Long Run out to reclaim King George crown
HALLOWEEN, Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid, See More Business, Kauto Star... Long Run? If Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old can justify 2-1 favouritism he will write his name in racing folklore along with the other greats to have reclaimed the King George crown.
Two seasons ago Long Run ruled the staying chaser division, claiming the jewel in the crown of the Christmas calendar on his way to Gold Cup glory. However last year he found the resurgent Kauto Star, one of the greatest chasers of all time, just too good.
It saw Kauto Star add his name to the list of chasing superstars Long Run now wishes to join and owner Robert Waley-Cohen is "still dreaming he can get back to where he was and that he is a plus-180 horse."
On his chances, he said: "He's done everything we've asked him to since Haydock and is coming to the races in very good form. I think he will like the ground better than at Haydock and will come on a bit from that.
"The first circuit at Haydock was very slow but that won't happen at Kempton, whoever's making it. I know he still finished second but it was a much less gruelling race than last year."
A year younger, Colin Tizzard's superstar Cue Card could pose the biggest threat, if staying the 3m trip in heavy conditions. Stamina is the main doubt but a bullish Tizzard said: "I'm as confident as I can be that he will stay."
The 2010 Champion Bumper winner looked imperious when winning the Haldon Gold Cup last month and is in even better form, according to his trainer. "I don't think we've ever had him better, he's in cracking form.
"We purposely left him after the Haldon Gold Cup for this. I don't think he will mind the ground - he's run on winter ground all his life and loves it - and he'll love the track. He's a champion bumper winner and they've usually got bags of stamina.
Colin Tizzard: 'he's in cracking form'PICTURE: Martin Lynch
"He had his last school at the beginning of last week and must have jumped 20 fences. We could have run him any day since Exeter but he proved first time how well he goes when fresh."
A best-priced 11-2, Cue Card is among several high-class opponents in an open-looking race. With Long Run not quite looking the force of old since his dominance of two seasons ago, stablemate Riverside Theatre, a distant second to Long Run when he won, has emerged as a great threat.
Wins in two Grade 1s last season, the Ascot Chase and the Ryanair, enhanced the claims of the course specialist, while last year's Feltham winner Grands Crus and Kauto Star's half-brother Kauto Stone also line up.
The Giant Bolster, who found only Synchronised too good in the Gold Cup - finishing ahead of Long Run, is out to finally land the spoils, while Captain Chris, third in this last year, Junior, Champion Court and For Non Stop complete the line-up.
A whole host of talented horses are attempting to thwart Long Run's bid for his own place in racing's history. Can he do it? Finding out is certainly going to be exciting.