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Long shot for crown in George

LONG Run appears among 31 entries as he looks to emulate the recently-retired Kauto Star by regaining his William Hill King George VI Chase crown at Kempton on St Stephen's Day.

Nicky Henderson's chaser also relinquished his Cheltenham Gold Cup title last season and connections will be hoping to see him bounce back to his best when he reappears at Haydock later this month.

Henderson has a strong hand with RSA Chase winner Bobs Worth, Champion Chase victor Finian's Rainbow and Ryanair hero Riverside Theatre, second two years ago, adding to his team.

One of the most intriguing entries in Willie Mullins' Sir Des Champs, unbeaten since joining Ireland's champion trainer and already a winner at two Cheltenham Festivals. Sizing Europe has been given the option again after his aborted mission two years ago when the race was rearranged.

Cue Card features among the possibles after his startling performance in the Haldon Gold Cup, while Grands Crus could represent David Pipe.

The likes of Hunt Ball, The Giant Bolster, Captain Chris, Albertas Run, former Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander and First Lieutenant are also engaged.

The King George has been the domain of Kauto Star for five of the last six years but his family legacy could live on his half-brother Kauto Stone, who was a winner at Down Royal last Saturday.

He is one of five possibles for trainer Paul Nicholls along with Al Ferof, Cristal Bonus, Silviniaco Conti and Poquelin.

Barney Clifford, Kempton's head of racing and clerk of the course, said: "These entries delight us in terms of the depth of quality.

"Kauto Star will be a hard act to follow, but there will be huge support for the popular Long Run as he bids to regain his William Hill King George VI Chase crown.

"And we have the new kids on the block coming through and taking on the established champions -- both Cue Card and Grands Crus will be admirable additions to the King George mix.

"The clock is now counting down to one of the most eagerly-anticipated horse races of the year."

Martin Keighley has ruled his Festival runner-up Champion Court out of a return trip to Cheltenham for the Paddy Power Gold Cup on November 17.

The Gloucestershire handler will also bypass the race with Havingotascoobydo.

Keighley revealed the news on the day the weights were released for the first major handicap of the new season, for which Grands Crus is 3/1 favourite with the sponsors having been allotted 11st 6lb.