Nicky Henderson has reasons to believe Long Run can go one better than 12 months ago and make a winning return in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
The seven-year-old was hot favourite for the Merseyside Grade One off the back of his Cheltenham Gold Cup victory seven months earlier, but had to make do with minor honours as a resurgent Kauto Star came back to form in scintillating style.
Long Run again played second fiddle to the legendary chaser in the King George VI Chase and he was only third when defending his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown - but Henderson could not be happier with his charge ahead of his return.
Henderson said: "I'd like to think he's a good bit straighter this year than he was last year. He looks big and he looks fantastic.
"Last year Paul (Nicholls) had Kauto 100% and I thought us being 90% would be enough, but it wasn't. He was probably a bit fresh last year and we got in a boxing match with Kauto, and Kauto punched his lights out.
"It's a shame his first run is going to be in really testing ground, it's not going to tell us everything, but we're getting a run into him and then I have four weeks until the King George."
While the soft ground is hardly ideal, Long Run's owner Robert Waley-Cohen feels there is little option but to let him take his chance.
He said: "The ground is what we've anticipated all week and I think we just have to press on and hope they all handle it.
"I think Long Run is a bit more forward than he was going into the race last year and he is certainly more mature, physically and mentally.
"He's running against good horses on Saturday and they don't just give Grade Ones away, but we're very much looking forward to it."
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