Long Run has won the King George VI Chase twice and despite a poor run at Wetherby recently is the 10/1 fifth favourite to win the race again on Boxing Day at Kempton Park. Dynaste heads the betting for the mid-season championship race at 5/1 but at five times those odds last year’s runner up, Captain Chris, looks an interesting betting proposition in the 3 miles chase. Silviniaco Conti will have backers at the current price of 6/1 and is my ante post selection.
Silviniaco Conti was going as well as anything when falling three out in last season’s Gold Cup. We will never know how the race would have panned out for the horse but it looked odds on that he was about to be placed at worst. In winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and Betfair Chase at Haydock the horse came right into the mix for the Gold Cup. The King George will be informative in the context of this horse’s competiveness at the highest level but on Gold Cup form before falling Silviniaco Conti looks a leading contender for the major staying chases this season.
In the recent Stable Tour in the Racing Post of the Paul Nicholls yard the trainer was looking forward to a lucrative and successful season for the horse. His concluding remarks were that: ‘He’s in great form and went very nicely in a racecourse gallop, though he saves his best for the track, where you have to say his record is awesome.’
Last season Silviniaco Conti did not run in the King George as Nicholls wanted to get him to Cheltenham in the spring really fresh. The trainer is not convinced his horse would have won the Gold Cup but believes he would have finished at least second to Bobs Worth. Only when faced with the hill after the last fence in the Gold Cup is a horse fully tested and it would have taken some effort to beat the winner.
The horse was subsequently beaten at Aintree but completed the race to restore some confidence after the mishap at Cheltenham. The plan this season is to run in the Betfair Chase again but first time out on this occasion as the horse goes well fresh. After that the team will go to Kempton again and then come back for the Argento Chase at Cheltenham ahead of next year’s Gold Cup at the same track.
Long Run is still single figure odds to repeat the performance of an epic battle with Captain Chris in last year’s King George. His backers will be concerned with the recent race at Wetherby in which he finished out of the first three for the first time in his career, but subsequently was found to have scoped badly. A serious error out in the country really stopped the horse, more than what was apparent from the stands, so there are genuine reasons for such a bad run.
Long Run won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2011. At eight years old he is still relatively young for a seasoned chaser but began his career over jumps in France before reaching the age of four. He is one of the shortest priced potential runners in ante post betting for the Grand National but given a good run in the King George the Gold Cup would again be on the schedule.
The horse’s trainer, Nicky Henderson, in his Stable Tour, highlighted the circumstances that led to Long Run finishing only fifth at Wetherby: ‘His mistake at the 11th fence down the far side was much, much worse than it appeared to the naked eye in the stands, or TV camera. It really was a catastrophic mistake that would have stopped any horse and there’s little doubt that was the reason why he showed some blood in his scope after the race.’
When talking to the media Henderson is always open and honest about how his horses run. Maybe he can afford to co-operate with the press, safe in the knowledge that he has the best string of jumpers in Britain and Ireland, a strength in depth reflected in odds of 1/8 to be champion trainer again. However, we can assume all is well with Long Run who will be prepared to ensure he is spot on for the King George.
According to the bookmakers Dynaste is the most likely winner of the race on the day after Christmas. David Pipe’s gelding won the Feltham Novices’ Chase in impressive fashion at Kempton last year before winning the Mildmay Novices’ at Aintree in the spring. Dynaste could still run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup but the King George is the main target in the first half of the season.
Pipe looked back at last season with satisfaction overall but reflected on how the horse lost its unbeaten record at the Cheltenham Festival: ‘A lot was said about whether we opted for the right race in going for the Jewson over the RSA, but I don’t think he would have won either race as he wasn’t quite at his best. At least he ended with a win at Aintree and that corrected a few misconceptions.’
There is some doubt about the ideal conditions for the horse to produce its best form. The trainer concludes he appears to have the profile of a horse that is better in the first half of the season and needs soft going yet there he was winning a Grade 2 in April on good going. However, it has to be said that the horse has been most impressive on the flat tracks at Kempton and Aintree which does not auger well for the Gold Cup on an undulating course.
The King George is part of the traditions of Christmas in our house. As a youngster Desert Orchid always seemed to win the race. Even though there is nothing to match that iconic horse in this year’s race Silviniaco Conti can prove to be a worthy contender for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup with a winning run.