Theatre the danger to Run's reign
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value at Kempton and Wetherby on Boxing Day and he's backing 11/2, 13/2 and 20/1 shots.
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The more you look at the King George the more it looks to have fallen in the lap of Long Run.
First main danger Al Ferof was ruled out for the season, then the weather turned conditions in his favour and looking at the final line-up he's by far and away the best equipped to deal with what could be a severe test of stamina.
- 1pt win Riverside Theatre in 3.10 Kempton at 11/2 (General) - class act who goes well fresh and loves Kempton.
- 1pt win Get Me Out Of Here in 2.35 Kempton at 20/1 (Paddy Power) - could relish this test and form has been good throughout the year.
- 1pt win Helpston in 1.45 Wetherby at 13/2 (Paddy Power) - all have questions to answer but last year's second loves Wetherby.
Cue Card, Champion Court, For Non Stop and Captain Chris are all good horses but all have question marks when it comes to staying three miles, especially in testing ground.
Junior and The Giant Bolster will stay but whether they have the class is another matter while Kauto Stone won a weak Grade One at Down Royal last time and it remains to be seen whether he's good enough for the very top table.
Long Run could well be the bet at 2/1 as I can see him being very popular and an SP nearer 11/8 wouldn't surprise me.
However, the bet that really stands out is the 11/2 about his stablemate RIVERSIDE THEATRE.
This fellow definitely has the class as his last three wins, all at Grade One level, prove. He's had his problems but Henderson knows how to get the best out of him now and that's to run him sparingly.
The King's Theatre gelding bounced back from a year off the track at Ascot in February when he slammed Medermit by three lengths, with Kauto Stone miles back in seventh.
On his next start he won the Ryanair Chase despite the track - I'm not convinced he likes Cheltenham - when he got up in the final strides to deny Albertas Run.
While he doesn't seem to like the contours of Prestbury Park he simply loves the right-handed flat track at Kempton as four victories from five starts at the Sunbury venue suggest.
His one reverse came in the King George when he was second to Long Run in the rescheduled January race at the beginning of 2011, but that was his second run of the campaign after winning at Kempton in November.
He's gone in in pretty deep ground at Ascot before so should have no problems with the conditions, though the combination of ground and trip could stretch his stamina to the absolute limit.
However, that's factored into his price and 11/2 seems very fair as he is one of only a few contenders who look capable of scooping this festive highlight.
Earlier on, GET ME OUT OF HERE looks overpriced at 20/1 to land the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle.
Young guns Darlan, Countrywide Flame and Cinders And Ashes dominate the betting and while they could progress to be top-notchers they're all some way off Champion Hurdle class yet.
Get Me Out Of Here was a Supreme Novices' runner-up, like Darlan, himself, and he's never really fulfilled the promise he showed as a novice.
However, he's really got his act together in 2012 finishing second to Zarkandar in the Betfair Hurdle before finishing in the same position in the Coral Cup at the Festival.
A much-deserved victory followed at Fairyhouse before he kicked off this campaign with a win over Brampour here at Kempton.
Last time he didn't stay behind Oscar Whisky over two-and-a-half miles in heavy ground, but testing conditions over two could be right up his street.
Top on official ratings, he looks to have been underestimated at 20/1.
Over at Wetherby, if it's on, all of the runners have questions to answer in the Rowland Meyrick with the exception of Ballyoliver who has had two tough races already this month.
At 13/2 it could be worth backing HELPSTON who goes very well at Wetherby given he won a novices' chase there before finishing second in last year's Rowland Meyrick.
Gina Andrews rode him that day and they jumped well in a prominent position but couldn't quite get to the well-handicapped front-runner According To Pete.
They were 15 lengths ahead of the rest, though, and with Andrews back in the saddle for the trip to West Yorkshire he can bounce back from two indifferent efforts so far this campaign.