OWNER Robert Waley-Cohen believes Long Run is back to his best ahead of his bid to retain the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen's Day.
The winner last season on his way to further glory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was beaten by Kauto Star on his reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
But Waley-Cohen feels the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old is all the better for the outing and deserves his place as the firm favourite for the Christmas spectacular.
Waley-Cohen said: "I think he's back.
"We are the reigning champ and the odds reflect it. We are 5-4 and Kauto Star is 4-1.
"I think Kauto Star will probably be shorter on the day because there is a huge amount of hope.
"People normally get behind the reigning champion, they want to see a great champ, and see him confirm that he is the real thing.
"But on this occasion everyone wants to see the old boy have a last hurrah and win for an unprecedented fifth time in the King George.
"It's not a two-horse race. It's a very impressive line-up. I know it's not a big field, but it's a proper serious Grade One race.
"If it comes down to pure speed, Master Minded is a champion at two miles in a Grade One race and at two-and-a-half miles.
"We've also won Grade One races at two miles, two mile two, three miles two and three miles. I think it's a big ask of Master Minded to go three miles and he does seem to run a little bit inconsistently, so you can't be quite sure if he's going to be with it or not quite with it.
"Racing is about winning and Long Run has so far won 12 and been placed in seven out of his 19 runs."