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Master Minded confirmed himself as a King George replacement for the deposed Kauto Star after collecting his eighth top-level prize in the Melling Chase at Aintree.

Age finally caught up with Kauto Star at Kempton in January when he could not deliver a fifth consecutive victory in the race for trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith, but those connections had an immediate idea to claim it back from the triumphant Long Run.

This was a replay of the Master Minded of old, the powerful French-bred who has terrorised the two-mile (3200m) division since the spring of 2008.

But his own crown had slipped too – finishing only eighth in last month’s Queen Mother Champion Chase – and Nicholls decided it was time for him to step back up another four furlongs (800m).

Master Minded had suffered a shock defeat to Voy Por Ustedes in this race three years ago but he has gradually been trained differently in order to preserve his outrageous cruising speed for longer.

A strong field had gathered including the most proven jumper at the distance, dual Ryanair Chase winner Albertas Run, who was a respectable runner-up here but nine lengths adrift.

Swinging along for Ruby Walsh as he so often does, Master Minded was in complete control by the final fence to prove his generous odds of 11-2 to be well wide of the mark.

“That was brilliant. We now have a new horse to take on Long Run,” Nicholls said.

“With hindsight I probably should have run him in the Ryanair instead of the Champion Chase, where he was flat to the boards the whole way and made a horrible mistake two out because he was trying to keep up.

“We changed his training routine after Cheltenham and worked him with slower horses, which enabled him to relax and enjoy himself.

“It’s just little things we’ve changed and it’s great now we can step up a bit with him.”

King George sponsors William Hill cut Master Minded to 4-1 behind 5-4 favourite Long Run.

“My idea is, he is the horse next year. Kauto has been to Kempton and got the video and the T-shirt, so now it’s Master Minded’s turn,” Nicholls said.

“He’s eight and it’s clear he now needs a longer distance so he’ll have a holiday and go for the same race he won at Ascot over two and a half miles (4000m) and then the King George.”

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