Long Run (right): will head for the Denman Chase at Newbury nextPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Henderson maps out
Gold Cup route for Run
NICKY HENDERSON on Thursday highlighted the gruelling nature of Wednesday's King George VI Chase when he mapped out the route last year's Gold Cup hero will take to the festival.
As was the case last season, Long Run will have his Gold Cup prep race in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on the second Saturday in February.
Last season he narrowly held on from stablemate Burton Port en route to finishing third in his defence of his Cheltenham crown.
A similarly tight verdict was secured in Kempton's showpiece, in which Robert Waley-Cohen's seven-year-old gave his all to reel in Captain Chris at the end of a brutal contest staged in heavy ground.
Perhaps with that in mind, Boylesports continue to offer 8-1 about Long Run, whose hard race behind Kauto Star in the 2011 Betfair Chase was attributed by connections as a possible explanation for his subsequent below-par efforts.
Henderson - whose Hennessy Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth heads all Gold Cup lists at a general 4-1 - identified plans for both horses and said Long Run's latest exertions could leave a mark later in the season.
Riverside Theatre: disappointingPICTURE: Getty
"That's why Newbury [rather than Cheltenham's Argento Chase] is a better race for him," said Henderson. "It gives him another fortnight following the King George. He will tell us. Of course he had a hard race. I'd be mindful how much that takes out of him.
"I would like to go for the Argento Chase with Bobs Worth as he loves Cheltenham and it gives him a little more time before the Gold Cup, which is helpful as he wants space between his races.
"We can then take the same route with Long Run as last season and go to Newbury in February. The timing is good for both horses."
Henderson said he was "baffled and disappointed" with Riverside Theatre, who could finish only sixth in the King George.
Much happier with what they saw in the King George were the connections of Captain Chris, who is a best-priced 25-1 for the Gold Cup having only succumbed to Long Run in the shadow of the post.
Owner Grahame Whateley said: "We were very pleased with him. We have got a plan but we want to keep it to ourselves for now.
"However, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is definitely ruled in not out. Richard Johnson has always said that he thought he was a Gold Cup horse, and I think he's right."
John Quinn is convinced that Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame is better than he showed when fourth in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and said: "It was a bit disappointing, but that's racing.
"It was a farcical, slowly-run race - I'm not making excuses but we're a stayer and we all feel that Countrywide Flame is better than that. We're still thinking of the Champion Hurdle for him, he loves Cheltenham and we'll see how we go."