Look, he's behind you!

Pantomime villain Waley-Cohen ready to play the bad guy with racing fans backing record chasing Kauto Star

By James Masters, December 22, 2011
Sam Waley-Cohen

Sam Waley-Cohen

Sam Waley-Cohen faces becoming the pantomime villain when he tries to deny the legendary Kauto Star a record fifth victory in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

Waley-Cohen, who won at Kempton onboard Long Run last year, is hoping to continue his remarkable run of success after landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March.

The much loved Kauto had been expected to retire after coming third at Kempton and Cheltenham before being pulled up at Punchestown for the first time in his career.

But the 11-year-old produced a mesmerising run to defeat Waley-Cohen and Long Run during the recent Betfair Chase at Haydock and give his supporters another glorious triumph.

Robert Waley-Cohen, Sam's father and owner of Long Run, believes the public will be desperate for Kauto to win, but is adamant his horse is ready for the challenge.

"Long Run is in great form, we're the race favourites in what will be a top quality race," he said.

"We all know the public will want Kauto to make a comeback and show everybody what a great champion he is.

"But I'm still very confident. Long Run's on his best form and he is improving all the time.

"It's going to be a great occasion with everyone wanting Kauto to win a fifth victory, but we're there to spoil the party.

"Kauto surprised us with his run at Haydock but Paul Nicholls and his team always do a great job."

"Long Run hadn't raced for eight months before Haydock but he'll be ready this time."

Long Run was beaten by eight lengths at Haydock, but is expected to start as favourite ahead of Kauto Star, who will once again be ridden by Ruby Walsh.

Amateur jockey Waley-Cohen had feared he may be forced to miss the race after being hit with a 12-day suspension by stewards at Fakenham after taking the wrong course.

Had the 29-year-old been a professional then he would have certainly been unable to compete, but with no amateur races scheduled for Boxing Day, the rules allow him to ride.

And Robert Waley-Cohen insists his son is ready for the course at Kempton and is desperate to seal a second successive King George Triumph.

"Sam is over what happened at Fakeneham," he added.

"These things happen in racing just like falling off, but you have to get on with it.

"He's very determined, he's done all his prep and I'm sure he'll be ready."

Both men have been busy discussing tactics with trainer Nicky Henderson ahead of the big day.

"I always have a big input into tactics," said Robert Waley-Cohen.

"We discuss them way in advance, it's not like you just turn up on the day and go for it.

"I always approach these days with trepidation, but they are great occasions."

The other horses competing in the £180,000 race include include Henrietta Knight's Somersby, Arkle winner Captain Chris, Diamond Harry, Nacarat and Golan Way.

Last updated: 1:19pm, December 22 2011