With no Kauto Star in the line-up this year, a new champion is waiting to be crowned though LONG RUN has little to prove. The seven-year-old had Kauto Star back in third when beating Riverside Theatre in this two years ago and won the Cheltenham Gold Cup that same season. He was only second to Paul Nicholls' former stable star last year but went down with all guns blazing and had The Giant Bolster behind when runner-up to Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on his reappearance - he's the one to beat again. Grands Crus was pulled up on his return to action in the Paddy Power and his participation here had been in doubt. But the grey shouldn't be underestimated as he won last year's Feltham in a canter and is still unexposed. Paul Nicholls is hoping Kauto Stone can star in his half-brother's absence, the six-year-old winning a Grade 1 at Down Royal last month, the first time he's scored at the highest level since arriving in this country. Champion Court will be up with the pace while Captain Chris beat For Non Stop on his reappearance at Ascot and was third in this last year. Cue Card is the dark horse as he's got to prove his stamina but he was hugely impressive in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter and the Tizzards think the world of him.
Captain Chris (IRE) 7-2 (11-1) Raced almost alone on inside rail, always prominent, led narrowly 6th to 10th, regained lead after 2 out (usual 3 out), ridden 2 lengths clear last, stayed on well flat, won at Ascot 2m 3f Grade 2 chs (4yo+) (1) hvy in Nov beating For Non Stop (11-7) by 4l, 4 ran.
Champion Court (IRE) 9-4fav (11-12) Disputed 2nd behind clear leader, close up 7th, led next, driven and headed before last, no chance with winner in clear 2nd flat flat, 2nd of 7, 6l behind William's Wishes (10-6) at Ascot 2m 1f hcp chs (2) hvy in Nov.
Cue Card 5-6fav (11-7) Tracked leader, led 2nd, drew clear from 4 out, impressive, won at Exeter 2m 1f ltd hcp chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Nov beating Edgardo Sol (11-7) by 26l, 5 ran.
For Non Stop (IRE) 10-3 (11-7) Raced centre, held up 4th and last, mistake 7th, close up 10th, outpaced after 2 out (usual 3 out), soon ridden, went 3rd approaching last, stayed on to take 2nd near finish, no impression with winner, 2nd of 4, 4l behind Captain Chris (11-1) at Ascot 2m 3f Grade 2 chs (4yo+) (1) hvy in Nov.
Grands Crus (FR) 7-4fav (11-6) Held up in rear, steady headway 12th, chased leaders 3 out, ridden and weakening when pulled up approaching next, in a race won by Al Ferof (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) sft in Nov, 18 ran.
Junior 3-1 (11-12) Made all, ridden before 3 out, kept on well from last, won at Newcastle 3m listed hcp chs (1) hvy beating Benny Be Good (11-6) by 1 3/4l, 5 ran.
Kauto Stone (FR) 4-1 (11-10) Keen hold, chased leaders, 4th and closer order from before 6 out, 3rd 3 out, ridden to challenge and on terms approaching last where in front, stayed on well run-in, won at Down Royal 3m Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Nov beating First Lieutenant (11-10) by 1l, 8 ran.
Long Run (FR) 11-8fav (11-7) Held up in touch, and keen, chased winner from 4 out, ridden before last, kept on and held flat, 2nd of 5, 2 1/2l behind Silviniaco Conti (11-7) at Haydock 3m chs G1 (1) sft in Nov.
Riverside Theatre 7-2fav (11-7) Mid-division on outside, pushed along from 7th, lost place 12th, pulled up before next, in a race won by Follow The Plan (11-7) at Aintree 3m 1f Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Apr, 11 ran.
The Giant Bolster 15-2 (11-7) Tracked leaders, ridden and no extra last, 3rd of 5, 7l behind Silviniaco Conti (11-7) at Haydock 3m chs G1 (1) sft in Nov.