Long Run hardens as King George favourite
Kempton's William Hill King George VI Chase market saw a dramatic shake-up this evening as Al Ferof was ruled out of the Boxing Day showpiece.
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Paul Nicholls' grey had been seen as a major threat to Long Run regaining the crown he won in a delayed running of the 2010 renewal, but a statement issued from the champion trainer broke the news that the Paddy Power Gold Cup winner would miss the big race.
As a result, the Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run is 5/2 favourite with the sponsors, who have Colin Tizzard's Cue Card as 9/2 second-favourite.
Nicholls still has a live contender in JNWine.com Champion Chase winner Kauto Stone, who had looked in need of a rider with Ruby Walsh having been set to ride Al Ferof and intended pilot Daryl Jacob suspended for the festive period.
Assessing the horse's prospects and well-being since Down Royal in November, Charlie Liverton, racing manager to owner Robin Geffen, said Kauto Star's half-brother "has been doing everything nicely since Down Royal, touch wood".
He said: "Being there will just be a dream, but at this stage that's all it is as this game has a habit of bringing you back down to earth, as we found out on Saturday with Cristal Bonus when he had to be put down.
"He was just beginning to realise his potential and it's such a shame."
Kauto Stone had been a 16/1 chance with William Hill but was cut to 10/1 in the revised market.
David Pipe is still aiming Grands Crus at the race.
The grey was a red-hot favourite for the Paddy Power Gold Cup on his seasonal reappearance but disappointed in heavy ground and has since had a wind operation.
Following a piece of work, Pipe tweeted: "Grands Crus galloped this morning and I am pleased with his progress. Still hoping to make the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day."
Paddy Power quote Sizing Europe at 6/1 'with a run' despite Henry de Bromhead stating earlier in the day he was more likely to go to Leopardstown.
He may turn 11 in a few weeks, but the 2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner has appeared in the form of his life in his two wins to date so far this season.
However, with good ground not guaranteed at Kempton, trainer De Bromhead is "leaning" towards staying at home.
"It's not 100% just yet that he isn't going to Kempton, but at this stage we are leaning towards Leopardstown," said De Bromhead.
"Which race he runs in will obviously depend on the ground.
"We've got the option of the Lexus or the Dial-A-Bet and we'll choose the best race for the conditions."