Kauto Star (left) and Long Run (right) will clash again in the Gold CupPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Long Run to shed plugs in quest to topple Kauto
THE Cheltenham crowd will assuredly roar like lions, but favourite Long Run may run in the Betfred Gold Cup without the protective earplugs he has worn since winning last season's King George VI Chase as trainer Nicky Henderson seeks to topple ageless champion Kauto Star.
Two consecutive defeats to Paul Nicholls' megastar have left Henderson contemplating whether the earplugs, initially fitted to protect the excitable Long Run from the adulation five-time King George winner Kauto Star attracts at Kempton, are now more of a hindrance than a help.
"We might not run him in earplugs in future which we’ve had in to keep him relaxed and maybe he's too relaxed now," Henderson revealed.
Seven-year-old Long Run was widelyheralded as the emerging champion of a new generation after his victory over Kauto Star, now 12, and the since-retired Denman in last year's Gold Cup.
However, he was subjected to shock defeats by a rejuvenated Kauto Star in November's Betfair Chase and then again in last month's King George.
Long Run is likely to be without his blue earplugs in future racesPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
"Kauto was a beatable horse last year and Paul and his people have got him back to his best," Henderson said.
"I don’t think we’ve gone backwards, in fact I’d be surprised if we hadn’t gone forwards, but we are taking on Kauto back at his very, very best."
Henderson, who said he may give Long Run a Gold Cup prep run in the Betfair Denman Chase (formerly the Aon) at Newbury on February 11, insisted Long Run can beat Kauto Star over the Gold Cup's 3m2½f, but added the absence of earplugs will not be the only change being made to Long Run's strategy.
Henderson told At The Races: "We’ve only got a length and a half to find on Kempton and if we’d jumped the last better it would have been close. We’ve got every reason to hope we can reverse the form.
"We will be changing a few things but I don't think we will be taking Kauto Star on up front. We are hoping that the extra distance at Cheltenham and the hill are what are going to save us."