According to trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies whatever the result of Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury the historic handicap will mark the end of the road for 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander, a hugely talented but injury-prone 12-year-old who has perhaps not been given the credit he deserves for that great Festival victory in which he achieved an official rating of 182 after beating a high-class field that included two of steeplechasing’s superstars in Denman and Kauto Star.
Injury has dogged the son of Flemensfirth over the last couple of seasons but there is plenty of evidence to suggest the horse retains enough ability to take Saturday’s 3m 2f contest off what looks a very lenient mark of 153, a massive 29lb lower than that achieved in March 2010. Not seen out since failing to take to the Aintree fences in this year’s John Smith’s Grand National Imperial Commander has an outstanding record first time out with form figures reading: 1-1-1-1-1-2-1-2 with those two second placings being a nose beating by Kauto Star in the 2009 Betfair Chase at Haydock and most recently just failing to hold Cape Tribulation in the Argento Chase at Newbury earlier this year.
Despite the advancing year’s the popular gelding will be having only his 9th outing during the last four seasons and at the 16-1 available at bet365 along with several other bookmakers, is worth chancing against some younger rivals who will never reach the exalted heights achieved by one of the sport’s leading lights since winning the 2008 Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham. In what looks one of the most open Hennessy’s in it’s 56 year history there are a host of possible dangers, the most interesting being the unexposed Invictus, Rocky Creek and Lord Windermere.