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Long Run targets Kempton Park Chase

ESPN staff
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Trainer Nicky Henderson with Long Run © Getty Images
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Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run could tackle the £100,000 Kempton Park Chase in February to gauge whether he is ready for a crack at this year's Grand National.

Nine-year-old Long Run has struggled this season, after failing to trouble the judge in three stars this term and unseating rider Sam Waley-Cohen - son of owner Robert - at the King George VI Chase.

The Nicky Henderson-trained horse has failed to match its 2011 Gold Cup success in recent years and it is possible Long Run's connections may look down the handicap route - but Waley-Cohen Snr is convinced his horse can return to his best form in Kempton despite a disappointing spell.

"I have to say this year hasn't gone at all according to plan and he's not been in the prize money for any of his three runs," Waley-Cohen told At The Races.

"Had he not tired and made those two mistakes, he would probably have been third or fourth, or thereabouts [n the King George VI], but that's not quite the same as last year when he won it after that great battle with Captain Chris.

Sam Waley-Cohen and Long Run at the Charlie Hall Chase in November © Getty Images
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"Maybe the handicapper has got it right and he's on the down grade and he should be marked down a lot. He hasn't had a massive number of races. He has had five years at the very top and there aren't many that go for more than that whatever age they start.

"I'm an eternal optimist and work on the assumption that he's still got it there and he'll come back to top form. His next race is pencilled in for February 22 at Kempton, a three-mile handicap chase, a £100,000 race."

And Waley-Cohen admits a crack at the world's greatest steeplechase at Aintree this April could very much be on the agenda if Long Run impresses at Kempton Park.

"I think we will learn a terrific amount from what happens on that day", Waley-Cohen said.

"If he struggles off 163 round there, there's absolutely no point in going for the Gold Cup, but if he absolutely loves it and wins by a country mile then you'll have to put the Gold Cup back on the agenda, but we'd be slightly surprised if he achieves that.

"I think the Grand National is the more obvious course to be going at the moment. I think we will just go back to cheekpieces. They seem to work pretty well on him, so that is probably what we will do.

"I think it's quite exciting and Sam's record round Liverpool is extraordinary. He's won three races there - in the Topham and the Foxhunters. In the National itself, he's had a second, a fourth and a fifth and wouldn't we just love to win it."

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