Long Run got up in the final strides to collar Captain Chris and regain his crown in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Captain Chris looked like going two places better than last year when he came through to head the winner of two seasons ago. However, Long Run, the 15-8 favourite trained by Nicky Henderson, rallied for amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, to get back up and score by a neck.
The winning rider said: "He was so brave. I had to keep asking him - I asked him early and maybe I asked too much as he was tired but so brave. This is his fifth year of competing at this level and he means an enormous amount to us. That was racing at it's best for me. I can't put it into words. It's an honour and a privilege."
Considering the Gold Cup, for which sponsors Betfred cut Long Run to 6-1, Waley-Cohen said: "It's going to be a different type of race at Cheltenham - I hope it's not as testing or as wet and the earlier races here have made a difference to the ground. It's hard to know if you're going to get home, but the horse is just a star."
Long Run is owned by Waley-Cohen's father Robert, who added: "He's come here four times now and won three Grade Ones and been second to Kauto Star. I wasn't absolutely sure that we had got back up but as I came down the stairs from the stand, I saw his name go up and that was fantastic."
Henderson was similarly thrilled to see his former Cheltenham Gold Cup victor return to winning form, saying: "It was a brave call to go on when he did and it was the right call to make. It was a battle out there today and not the best ground for any of them. You would have to say last year was a disappointment but he's been running good races all the time.
"We had it in our minds that Bobs Worth would run in the Cheltenham race in January (Argento Chase), leaving Long Run free to run in the Denman (Aon) Chase at Newbury, but we'll have to discuss things with connections. I'd love to see Long Run back on better ground and I'm so pleased Sam and the horse have proved a point to people today."
Richard Johnson was given a nine-day ban (January 9-17) and fined £900 by the stewards for exceeding the permitted level with the whip on Captain Chris. He said: "I thought coming to the last I was going to win, but the other horse is a proven Gold Cup winner and he's just outstayed me.
"It was a great run and I'm just looking forward to riding him on better ground."
Grands Crus travelled notably well on his return from a breathing operation and just tied up in the final stages to pass the past 14 lengths further back in third. Jockey Tom Scudamore said: "He ran a great race and I'm most pleased he looks a lot more like his old self."
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