Kauto Star hasn't got as many miles on the clock as most 12-year-olds and has beaten LONG RUN twice this season. But it's been a race against time to get the former champion to The Festival after a schooling fall a couple of weeks ago and there's no question that this 3m2f trip stretches his stamina to the absolute limit. Nicky Henderson's eight-year-old left Kauto Star toiling in his wake here 12 months ago, despite making several serious errors, and this has been his target all season. With the yard in fantastic form all week, it's difficult to see the reigning champion being overturned today as long as he treats the fences with respect. Henderson also saddles Burton Port, who ran his stable companion close in the Denman Chase at Newbury last month but was receiving 10lb on that occasion. He has form at The Festival and has each-way claims, however, though a bigger danger may be the still-improving Synchronised. The ground may be a little faster than ideal but McCoy's mount took the step up to Grade 1 company in his stride at Leopardstown over Christmas, though is taken on stronger opposition again today. Quel Esprit has started to fulfil his potential this season but these fences will test him to the full and What A Friend and Midnight Chase, among several others, weren't good enough 12 months ago and are unlikely to do much better this time.
Burton Port (IRE) 15-2 (11-0) Held up in touch in rear, not fluent 7th, pushed along briefly after 5 out, closed 4 out, went 2nd approaching last, stayed on well towards finish, gaining close home, 2nd of 5, 1/2l behind Long Run (11-10) at Newbury 3m chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb.
Carruthers 8-1 (11-8) Mid-division, not always fluent and never in any rhythm, lost place 8th, behind 14th, tailed off 17th, pulled up after, in a race won by Le Beau Bai (10-1) at Chepstow 3m 5f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) hvy in Dec, 20 ran.
China Rock (IRE) 5-1 (11-10) Prominent and disputed until headed 4th, took keen hold, 3rd halfway, close 2nd approaching 2 out, ridden entering straight and dropped to 4th at last, no extra run-in, 5th of 7, 10l behind Quel Esprit (11-10) at Leopardstown 3m Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Feb.
Diamond Harry 10-3fav (11-6) Mid-division, headway 14th, went 3rd 5 out, outpaced before 2 out, soon no chance with leading pair, weakened into 5th flat, 5th of 9, 15l behind Midnight Chase (11-6) at Cheltenham 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Jan.
Kauto Star (FR) 3-1 (11-10) Always prominent on outside, led 8th, made rest, driven 2 out, ridden and stayed on well flat, won at Kempton 3m Grade 1 chs (4yo+) (1) gs in Dec beating Long Run (11-10) by 1 1/4l, 7 ran.
Knockara Beau (IRE) 10-1 (11-2) Led, pushed along before last, ridden run-in, soon headed, kept on and no chance with winner, 2nd of 6, 2 1/4l behind Simonsig (11-2) at Kelso 2m 2f hdl (2) gs in Feb.
Long Run (FR) 4-7fav (11-10) Tracked leader who went clear from 5th, closed 13th, challenged 5 out, led and jumped left 3 out, ridden when again went left last, driven out, being closed on by 2nd towards finish, won at Newbury 3m chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb beating Burton Port (11-0) by 1/2l, 5 ran.
Midnight Chase 11-2 (11-6) Made all, driven clear after 3 out, ridden and stayed on well flat, won at Cheltenham 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Jan beating Tidal Bay (11-0) by 2 3/4l, 9 ran.
Quel Esprit (FR) 5-4fav (11-10) Prominent, led from 4th, travelling best early straight and asserted before last, kept on under pressure run-in and reduced advantage final 100 yards, won at Leopardstown 3m Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Feb beating Roberto Goldback (11-10) by 2l, 7 ran.
Synchronised (IRE) 8-1 (11-10) Tracked leaders on inner, close 5th halfway, went 2nd entering straight and ridden to lead before last, kept on well to draw clear run-in, won at Leopardstown 3m chs G1 (1) gd in Dec beating Rubi Light (11-10) by 9l, 9 ran.
The Giant Bolster 17-2 (11-6) Led, clear 5th until 13th, headed when hampered 3 out, 4th and beaten next, 4th of 5, 11l behind Long Run (11-10) at Newbury 3m chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb.
The Midnight Club (IRE) 4-5fav (11-9) Tracked leader, 3rd approaching 6 out, 4th before 4 out, 3rd again approaching straight, soon no impression under pressure, kept on same pace, 3rd of 5, 6l behind Leanne (11-2) at Clonmel 2m 4f chs hvy in Feb.
Time For Rupert (IRE) 10-3fav (11-6) Tracked winner, not fluent and lost place 12th, ridden after 4 out, kept on under pressure from last, no impression, 4th of 9, 14l behind Midnight Chase (11-6) at Cheltenham 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Jan.
Weird Al (IRE) 7-1 (11-7) Held up in 5th, raced wide back straight, jumped left 13th, switched inside and headway into 4th approaching 4 out, ridden and stayed on to go 3rd before last, no impression, 3rd of 6, 10l behind Kauto Star (11-7) at Haydock 3m Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Nov.
What A Friend 9-1 (11-0) Held up in touch in last pair, mistake 1st, went 3rd 5th, not fluent 4 out, soon ridden, challenged next until after 2 out, no extra towards finish, 3rd of 5, 4 1/2l behind Long Run (11-10) at Newbury 3m chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb.