Here is a follow up piece to my Christmas Day (how sad is that) article selecting Imperial Commander for the Gold Cup.
Seemingly a two horse race between Kauto Star and Denman, there are not many other genuine contenders for the Gold Cup and the race lacks strength in depth.
Cooldine and Imperial Commander are the only other contenders that have shown anywhere near the form and ability to win the Blue Riband of jump racing.
The latter at 14/1 with William Hill is great value to take charge of the Gold Cup by upsetting the big two and putting Cooldine to the sword.
In Imperial Commander, trainer Nigel Twiston Davies has an improving classy chaser who simply loves Cheltenham. He took the Ryanair Chase at the Festival last year and the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2008. Five of his six victories have come at Prestbury Park, where he boasts a 55% strike rate (better than Kauto Star’s 50% record).
The favourite, Kauto Star is going to be tough to beat but in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Imperial Commander came within a whisker of beating Kauto Star. Yet, Kauto Star is odds one and Imperial Commander is 12/1. So the bookies are saying that Kauto Star has more than 12 times the chance of winning the big race? I don’t think so. The Haydock race was an improved performance from nine year old Imperial Commander and at this optimum age for a chaser he is likely to improve again.
The Haydock race proved that Imperial Commander can stay a 3 mile trip and he didn’t look as if he was stopping. The 3m 2f of the Gold Cup should not be a problem. At Haydock, he also demonstrated that he doesn’t need to make the pace and this versatility will be important come Friday 19 March.
Kauto Star and Denman are now ten years old. The last ten year old winner was Cool Dawn in 1998 and there have only been two 10 year old winners in the past 20 years. Are either of them improving at 10 years old? No. Is Imperial Commander. Yes.
Denman’s performance in the Hennessy Gold Cup was simply awesome but at Newbury in the Aon Chase he fell and seemed to lack his usual zip. Hardly an ideal prep for Cheltenham.
The same could be said of Imperial Commander who was thrashed by Kauto Star in the King George at Christmas. However, his record suggests he just doesn’t operate on right handed tracks. This was his last run so he will be fresh and ready to run for this life at Cheltenham.
Cooldine ran a good trial in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown when coming second to Joncol. If continuing to progress he would have a chance but he is a full stone behind Imperial Commander on Official Ratings.
To sum up, Imperial Commander has all the attributes needed to take charge in the Gold Cup and is very much a value bet.