Long Run and Binocular with Nicky Henderson
Trainer Nicky Henderson says Long Run is his best chance of landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup but dual winner Kauto Star is the horse to beat.
Henderson's six-year-old beat the four-time King George VI Chase champion when he sought a fifth triumph in January.
"If Kauto Star turns up like he was in the King George the year before, he is still the horse we've all got to beat," said Henderson.
He said Hurricane Fly could be the main Champion Hurdle rival to Binocular.
Long Run, rated a general 5-1 second favourite behind 2010 winner Imperial Commander, has finished third on his previous two Cheltenham starts.
But Henderson brushed off fears he might not be at his best around the undulating Gloucestershire track.
"He's my best by quite a long way, I suspect," said Henderson.
"Marlborough (fourth in 2002) was knocking on the door a bit and I suppose he was as close as we've been to having a Gold Cup horse. We just haven't had one."
Reflecting on Long Run's previous outings, Henderson said: "Nothing went right for him in the RSA last year and we had an inkling the week before in his coat and his whole demeanour, he'd just suddenly gone. But at the moment everything is going well.
"The priority of the season was Kempton because nobody denies that Kempton, on what we had seen when he won the Feltham, was the perfect place for him.
He wasn't there last year but he has to be the best of the Irish
Nicky Henderson on Champion Hurdle rival Hurricane Fly
"But what was so good about Kempton was the rhythm and I don't see why he shouldn't get into that at Cheltenham.
"The reason why he didn't in the Paddy Power was that two miles and five in a competitive handicap just got him out of his comfort zone.
"We've worked on that quite a lot and we've another session with [horse expert] Yogi Breisner next week.
"I'm not worried about Cheltenham. It had been a long campaign before the RSA.
"He's very young for a Gold Cup horse but there's nothing else you can do and he stays."
Long Run and stablemate Riverside Theatre finished first and second in the King George, with Kauto Star only third.
But Henderson warned the champion could be back, adding: "You have to accept that wasn't Kauto Star anywhere near his best - they can't both beat him like that because Kauto at his very best at Kempton was awesome."
The trainer has won the Champion Hurdle five times, including last year with Binocular.
While he fears Peddlers Cross, who beat Binocular on his first start of the season in the rearranged Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newbury, the Irish ace Hurricane Fly has caught his eye after winning all three outings this term.
"Since Newbury I would have said Peddlers Cross would always be one of our main dangers as I thought that race was good, even though we knew we had a lot of improvement to come," said Henderson.
"But I think Hurricane Fly would be the one I'd probably fear the most. He has always looked good.
"He wasn't there last year but he has to be the best of the Irish. It's certainly very open and I think they are very good."