10 In King George Reckoning

Sun 23rd Dec 2012, 10:47

Long Run
©Healy Racing Photos
Warm favourite Long Run will face nine rivals in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old won the race two seasons ago and finished second to the mighty Kauto Star last year.

Henderson also has an able second-string in Riverside Theatre, who finished runner-up behind Long Run in the 2010-11 renewal.

Kauto Stone, a half-brother to five-times King George winner Kauto Star, takes his chance for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

David Pipe has two good-looking contenders in Grands Crus and Junior, who was supplemented for the race earlier in the week.

Philip Hobbs relies upon last year's third Captain Chris after taking out Menorah and Wishfull Thinking at the final declaration stage on Sunday morning.

The Giant Bolster, runner-up in last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup, and recent Haldon Gold Cup winner Cue Card have also been declared.

Champion Court, trained by Martin Keighley, and For Non Stop from Nick Williams' stable complete the line-up.

Hunt Ball, Sir Des Champs, and Finian's Rainbow were also taken out of the race at the final declaration stage.

Owner Robert Waley-Cohen hopes a tip-top Long Run can regain his crown.

Long Run did not please everyone when beaten by Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month, but Waley-Cohen felt there were valid reasons for that defeat.

"The race wasn't run to suit at Haydock and the ground was quite tricky for a horse that isn't used to running on that sort of heavy ground," he said.

"We were always worried there wouldn't be enough pace and it might turn into a sprint finish - he was always vulnerable to that - but we didn't want him to leave his season behind in that race.

"It's possible the Gold Cup he won as a six-year-old might have taken a hell of a lot out of him, it might be that Kauto Star was a hell of a good horse last year.

"He had two very hard races earlier last season and that came home to roost in the Gold Cup.

"I'm a bit disappointed he didn't improve - he had a good summer and we hoped he'd have moved on, but that said he didn't win a Paddy Power off 158 and ended up finishing that season off 182.

"The handicapper has at us 171 after Haydock and I'd hope he would find a bit extra towards the end of the year.

"He had a quiet week after Haydock but he's in good order and we hope to have him cherry-ripe for Kempton."

Henderson believes Long Run will improve for the Haydock outing.

"Everything has gone right. Haydock went much better this year than it did last year, probably thanks to no Kauto Star to thump him," he told At The Races.

"OK, we got beaten, but he ran well and was probably straighter and didn't get quite as hard a race.

"He improved dramatically from last year's Haydock race to the King George. We only got beaten less then two lengths by Kauto instead of eight.

"We'd expect to find that improvement, and I'd be hopeful that the ground is the one thing that can play to his strengths. Everything has gone well, the schooling has gone well and his work has been great.

"I think he goes in there with as big a chance as he had two years ago and we'd like the same again.

"We'll see where the pace is going to be. We discussed going on at Haydock because there wasn't an obvious pacemaker, but Ruby (Walsh) made his mind up and he was going to make it (on Silviniaco Conti). Ruby set the race up to suit himself. I think we were right to drop off him or we would have got into a slog.

"It depends how fast someone wants to go. We haven't discussed making the running yet. We certainly did before the Betfair and I've nothing against that horse lobbing along. He loves his work in front and he schools on his own. he'd do anything you like."

Fences omitted at Thurles

Two fences will be omitted in the chases at Thurles today due to ground conditions at the Tipperary track.