The tremendously popular 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander may well have his first outing of the season in the ultra-competitive Grade 3 Hennessy Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury on November 30.
With the exception of last April’s Grand National – in which he pulled up when behind at Becher’s on the second circuit – the 12-year-old has not run in a handicap since landing the 2008 Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, beating The Queen’s Barber Shop off a mark of just 139.
A horse who has proved difficult to train over the last four or five years, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ star performer scaled the heights of the chasing world when making up for his nose defeat at the hands of the mighty Kauto Star in the 2009 Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock.
He went on to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following March, storming past the great Denman to land a memorable success.
Training problems have limited him to just five subsequent racecourse appearances, but Imperial Commander landed the 2010 Betfair Chase (beating another grand old-timer Tidal Bay), and was tanking along in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup until sustaining a leg injury after hitting the fourth from home, eventually pulling up lame before the final fence.
Beaten just half-a-length by Cape Tribulation in the Grade 2 Argento Chase in February this year – his first start in 22 months – the old horse probably didn’t stay at Aintree, but connections are optimistic he still retains plenty of ability. The horse’s handlers are tempted to have a crack at the ‘Hennessy’ with the gelded son of Flemensfirth having been dropped to a mark of just 153, his lowest rating in nearly five years.
A horse who goes really well fresh, the latest betfair.com odds suggest that Imperial Commander would certainly bring the house down should he gallop to victory in the showcase Newbury event.