Imperial Commander poised to rule again on racecourse return
Last Updated: January 26, 2013 10:49am
Connections of Imperial Commander believe the 2010 Gold Cup winner is in a "strong position" ahead of his return at Cheltenham this weekend.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained 12-year-old has not run for 680 days, having been plagued by injury, but is again back on the Gold Cup trail.
Imperial Commander must first come through a competitive-looking Argento Chase before thoughts turn to the Festival.
Paul Costello syndicate manager for his owners, Our Friends In The North, said: "He's not ran for nearly two years, but he's getting a lot of weight so we are in a strong position.
"His last couple of racecourse gallops have gone very well and he was spot-on in his last piece of work at Warwick.
"If he can run to 10lb of his top rating he'll be hard to beat at the weekend."
Although Bobs Worth, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup ante-post favourite, was ruled out of the Argento Chase on Thursday, Tidal Bay could still feature in the final line-up.
Trainer Paul Nicholls said the Lexus Chase winner was "going the right way" after he was found to be slightly lame on Thursday.
A final decision on his participation will be made on Saturday morning.
Grands Crus is a definite runner as he bids to improve upon a third-placed finish in the King George VI Chase at Kempton - his first start since he underwent a wind operation.
Trainer David Pipe said: "He's all set to go, and we'll find out at the weekend whether he gets three miles and one (furlong) or not.
"You'd like to think he'll improve for Kempton as he did get a bit tired along the home straight."
Trainer Keiran Burke is also confident Hunt Ball is coming to the boil nicely as he builds up to the Gold Cup in March.
"The owner is very keen to go and we wanted to have a good test to see where we are for the Gold Cup," said the Dorset handler.
"He did a piece of work last week which was one of the best bits he's ever done."
Weird Al's season revolves around the John Smith's Grand National, but trainer Donald McCain feels the Argento is an ideal stepping-stone towards Aintree in April.
McCain said: "The idea is to run here and then head to Aintree fresh, as we know that's when he is at his best."
Little Josh also has grand designs on the John Smith's Grand National.
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies said: "He needs to be placed over three miles to get a place in the National so I guess that's the thinking behind running him."
Malcolm Jefferson had the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster's abandoned fixture as Cape Tribulation's primary aim, but is happy to let the Rowland Meyrick winner line up at Cheltenham.
"We could really do with getting a run into him," said the North Yorkshire handler.
"He's in good form and he deserves to run in a race like this."
Trainer Neil Mulholland has also rerouted Midnight Chase, who was pulled up in the Lexus, from his intended target at Doncaster.
He said: "The ground would probably be a worry, but he's in good form and has done well since Leopardstown."
Owner-trainer Hilary Parrott believes a big show from Wayward Prince, who was a fine winner of a Listed race at Aintree last time out, would rubber-stamp his Gold Cup credentials.
"He would have to run a storming race on Saturday to go in the Gold Cup," said the Gloucestershire handler.
"A good run would force our hand."
Venetia Williams is well represented by the in-form Quartz De Thaix, who was narrowly been over course and distance in the Grade Three Majordomo Handicap in December.
Peter Deal, spokesman for owners ROA Arkle Partnership, said: "He's been a revelation this season and his last run at Cheltenham was particularly good as he was just nabbed on the line."
Hey Big Spender, by contrast, has struggled, having at one stage looked a genuine Gold Cup contender.
Trainer Colin Tizzard said: "If he returns to his best he's capable of running into a place, but we're just running him to see where we are with him."