Long Run may set his own pace as the 2011 Gold Cup hero bids to reclaim his William Hill King George VI Chase crown at Kempton today.
It has not been plain sailing since the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding won a rearranged King George in January 2011 before going on to glory at Cheltenham.
Second to Kauto Star 12 months ago, Long Run heads a field of ten for jump racing’s Christmas cracker.
There were signs Long Run was on the way back when he was second to Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
“Everything has gone right. Haydock went much better this year than it did last year, probably thanks to no Kauto Star to thump him,” Henderson said.
“Okay, 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 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.”
Henderson also has an able second-string in Riverside Theatre, who finished runner-up behind Long Run in the 2010-11 renewal.
“We had a plan again with him. His first run is nearly always his best and we are going straight to the King George, no preps, nothing,” he said.
“He had one racecourse gallop at Kempton. He worked seriously well and he’s just been so good first time out every year.”