LONG RUN IS to shed his earplugs in a bid t0 reverse back-to-back defeats against Kauto Star, trainer Nicky Henderson said.
The reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup champion has worn earplugs, which filter out on-course noise and help horses to stay relaxed before a race, since his British chasing debut in December 2009.
But disappointing losses to a resurgent Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase at Haydock as well as last month’s King George VI Chase at Kempton have forced connections to rethink their tactics in the run-up to the Gold Cup showdown between the two in March.
“We have spent a lot of time settling him down and have always run him in earplugs,” Henderson told AtTheRaces.
“That helps him through the preliminaries and everything else, but we’ve probably decided to take them out now because he is very relaxed and possibly a little bit over [relaxed].”
Long Run is likely to have one final prep run without earplugs in the Denman (formerly Aon) Chase at Newbury on 11 February, while Paul Nicholls has indicated that he will wrap up Kauto Star until the trip to the Cotswolds.
Kauto Star has won this season’s meetings by eighth lengths and one-and-a-quarter lengths respectively but Henderson seems confident that Long Run can stick to his gameplan and still reverse the recent form.
“We will be changing a few things,” Henderson said, “but I don’t think we will be taking Kauto Star on up front. We are hoping that the extra distance at Cheltenham and the hill are what are going to save us.”