Long Run still the one to beat, Paul Nicholls

EXCLUSIVE: Young gun Long Run still the one to beat

Confident, but not that confident. That sums up my mood ahead of Monday afternoon”s clash between Kauto Star and Long Run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

When the pair met in last month”s Betfair Chase at Haydock, I was really bullish that Kauto was as fit and well as I could have had him.

Don”t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing in his homework or demeanour that says that Kauto Star isn”t in A1 condition. He is certainly in a far better physical place than he was when Long Run beat him 19 lengths in last season”s race and took his crown. But history and common sense dictate that whenever you gear up a horse to be at his absolute peak on one day, then it is asking a lot of him to repeat the feat only five weeks later.

One to beat: Long Run (left)

One to beat: Long Run (left)

That”s why Long Run is undeniably a worthy favourite. He is entitled to improve for his Haydock second, goes into the race as the reigning champion and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and is the younger horse.

We made the running at Haydock but I”m not going to reveal our tactics for Monday. Whatever we do, there should be plenty of pace with front-running Nacarat in the line-up.

I think my other runner, Master Minded, is in danger of becoming the forgotten horse of the race. He may be a dual Champion Chase winner but he is not a two-miler stepping up to three miles. He is also a two-and-a-half mile winner who has every chance of staying.

He has been trained for this race and this race only since he came back into training in July.

It should be a fantastic race. I have the utmost respect for Long Run, his trainer Nicky Henderson, owner Robert Waley-Cohen and jockey son Sam.

If they turn the tables on us, I”ll take defeat with the same good grace that they showed at Haydock.

Paul Nicholls discusses all his Boxing Day runners, free to view, on: www.betfair.com/paulnicholls