CONVENTIONAL racing wisdom has it that speed, rather than an abundance of stamina, is the most important attribute in a potential King George VI Chase winner, hence the proliferation of specialists over shorter distances than three miles lining up at Kempton today.
This is not a theory backed up by fact. It is 10 years since a winner did not go on to prove himself a stayer, when Edredon Bleu won on good ground.
Since then, this Boxing Day bird has been carved up between Kicking King, Long Run (twice each) and the remarkable Kauto Star (a record five victories), who all possessed the stamina to win Cheltenham Gold Cups.
Kempton is a less demanding circuit than Cheltenham, but can still provide a war of attrition, especially when saturated by rain, as it will be today if the weather forecasters have it right.
On the face of it, Cue Card, who beat Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month, ran the perfect trial, but more will be demanded of his stamina if the rain sets in.
Times are less relevant in a chase than on the Flat, but it is worth noting that last year's King George was run in about a second and a half slower per furlong than was the Betfair Chase.
Cue Card had an edge in match fitness at Haydock and his stable is not in the same red-hot form now, two more reasons for connections of both Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti to fancy their chances of turning the tables.
Al Ferof, top-class over shorter distances, but never tried over three miles under Rules, has the biggest question mark over his stamina, but Mount Benbulben should not be dismissed. His jumping can be hit and miss, but he has the potential to win at this level when everything clicks.
A rethink will be required if the rain misses Sunbury-on-Thames, but, anticipating a drenching, I would suggest sticking with Long Run (3.10 Kempton), the winner in 2010 and last year, and generally available at 10-1.
Long Run has been devoid of his old sparkle this season. One would hope that Nicky Henderson's upbeat bulletin this week was more than wishful thinking and that a visor applied for the first time has a positive effect.
This race brings out the best in him and I would not want to be on anything else if it comes down to a slog.