Such has been the excitement ahead of the latest anticipated battle between dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star and the reigning champion Long Run, that the prospect of either horse not making the starting line-up for the great race had barely been considered by the masses that have already booked their tickets to see what would surely be the last head-to-head battle between the pair, writes Elliot Slater.

Now all fingers are firmly crossed that the veteran Kauto Star can recover in time from what was reportedly a very heavy fall on the training grounds at Ditcheat and arrive fully fit to try and confirm form with the five-years-younger Long Run, the horse he beat by eight-lengths in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November ,and then by just over a length in an unforgettable renewal of the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, an event he won for a record breaking fifth time in his glittering career. Horse racing tips were predicting a glorious hat-trick and revenge for last year’s losss.

With connections suggesting that his chances of overcoming soreness and being ready in time for March 16 are no better than 50-50, the much awaited re-match between the two outstanding three-mile chasers of the last two seasons is in serious jeopardy and news of the setback to the 12-year-old has resulted in bookmakers rushing to slash the odds of Long Run retaining his crown, Nicky Henderson’s charge now being a best racing odds of 6/4 favourite having been available at 9/4 before news broke of Kauto Star’s fall.

For his part Kauto Star can be backed at up to 9/2 (from 7/2) to win back the title he last held in 2009, while both Grand Crus, (who had been expected to run in the RSA Chase), and Burton Point, (who only narrowly failed to beat Long Run recently at Newbury), have been trimmed in to no bigger than 7/1 joint third-favourites.

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