Long Run (right): hot favourite for the King George VI Chase at KemptonPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Walsh: Long Run hard to beat in the King George
RUBY WALSH will be "pleasantly surprised" if he manages to beat Long Run for a second successive year in the William Hill King George VI Chase with the jockey believing the favourite will be hard to beat.
Walsh was aboard Kauto Star when the chasing superstar defeated Long Run in last year's King George - having also beaten him at Haydock the time before - and rides Kauto Star's half-brother Kauto Stone in this year's race.
Walsh was also in front of Long Run in this season's Betfair Chase at Haydock on the Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti but expects Kempton to play to the strengths of Long Run on Wednesday.
He said: "I'm hoping to win but the more I've looked at the race the more convinced I've become that Long Run is going to be hard to beat. He is already a winner of a King George and a Cheltenham Gold Cup and, quite honestly, that form is far in advance of what any other horse brings to the table. He will love the ground and is certain to stay, which is more than can be said for most of the opposition.
"Kauto Stone is a half-brother to Kauto Star, but he's no Kauto Star. He proved he stays three miles when winning a Grade 1 on his reappearance at Down Royal, but realistically needs to step up plenty on that to win now. I'll be giving it my best shot but will be pleasantly surprised should we finish ahead of Long Run."
Ruby Walsh: hopeful not confidentPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Kauto Stone is an 8-1 chance for victory at Kempton on December 26 with Cue Card and Riverside Theatre shorter than him in the betting and Walsh is split on his opinion of their chances.
Writing in his column in the Irish Examiner, Walsh said: "I have always been very impressed by Cue Card and regard him as a horse on a par with Al Ferof, which I would have ridden in the King George, if he hadn't been ruled out by injury for the season.
"Riverside Theatre got one of the best rides you will ever see from Barry Geraghty when landing the Ryanair at Cheltenham but I just don't think is as good as Barry made him look on that occasion."
The going at Kempton remained soft, heavy in places on Monday after 5mm of rain overnight.