THIS could prove one of those occasions when there is no point complicating matters.
Long Run, beaten only by the record-breaking Kauto Star in three St Stephen’s Day starts over the course, is much the most likely winner of the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton today. And while the
retirement of Kauto Star, which won the race for a fifth time last year, suggests the time is ripe for a changing of the guard, it is surely premature to make too much of the anomaly that Long Run – approaching only his eighth birthday – increasingly represents the old order.
With so many miles on the clock, for one of his age, there is admittedly a case to be made that the engine nowadays operates at slightly lower horsepower than when Long Run appeared to have ended the Kauto Star era here, two years ago.
The fact is that Long Run has been beaten in four of his last five starts, his only success being a scrambled, halflength defeat of Burton Port in his Gold Cup trial last season. Even in defeat, however, his form sets a clear standard in what no longer seems a vintage field, following the loss to injury of Al Ferof, and to Leopardstown of all three potential Irish raiders.
Long Run was beaten on his reappearance for the third year running when second to Silviniaco Conti at Haydock last month. But the winner did enjoy the run of the race and Long Run saw things out with auspicious determination, despite
having looked too fresh and free in the early stages.
He will come on for the run as usual, plainly adores an end-to-end gallop round this sharp track, and the demanding conditions will surely undermine those rivals that are stepping up in trip today.
Long Run himself has largely raced on better ground since his arrival from France, but seemed to cope well with pretty awful going at Haydock.
Of those with stamina to prove, Cue Card is the one with the requisite combination of youth and class to open a new chapter in elite steeplechasing. He has always had tons of ability, was devastating in the Festival Bumper in his youth and after appearing to discover his limitations as a novice over both hurdles and fences he could yet find fulfilment over this kind of trip. He was deeply impressive on his reappearance, but the extra distance in this going demands an unnerving leap of faith.
Though beaten a long way when third last year, Captain Chris could offer value. He seemed to lose his way last season, having looked a top-class chaser in the making, but appeared to regroup somewhat on his return.