Owner Robert Waley-Cohen hopes a tip-top Long Run can regain his crown in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
The seven-year-old did not please everyone when beaten by Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month, but Waley-Cohen felt there were valid reasons for that defeat.
"The race wasn't run to suit at Haydock and the ground was quite tricky for a horse that isn't used to running on that sort of heavy ground," he said.
"We were always worried there wouldn't be enough pace and it might turn into a sprint finish - he was always vulnerable to that - but we didn't want him to leave his season behind in that race.
"It's possible the Gold Cup he won as a six-year-old might have taken a hell of a lot out of him, it might be that Kauto Star was a hell of a good horse last year. He had two very hard races earlier last season and that came home to roost in the Gold Cup.
"I'm a bit disappointed he didn't improve - he had a good summer and we hoped he'd have moved on, but that said he didn't win a Paddy Power off 158 and ended up finishing that season off 182.
"The handicapper has us at 171 after Haydock and I'd hope he would find a bit extra towards the end of the year. He had a quiet week after Haydock, but he's in good order and we hope to have him cherry-ripe for Kempton."
Long Run spearheads 10 horses declared and trainer Nicky Henderson has a more than able second-string in Riverside Theatre, who finished runner-up behind his stablemate in the 2010-11 renewal.
Kauto Stone, a half-brother to five-times King George winner Kauto Star, takes his chance for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
David Pipe has two contenders in Grands Crus and Junior, who was supplemented for the race earlier in the week. Philip Hobbs relies upon last year's third Captain Chris, while other runners are The Giant Bolster, Cue Card, Champion Court and For Non Stop.