Cheltenham hero rests after war of the wolds
Imperial Commander takes a break before going on manoeuvres to Liverpool
For the Festival's hype-busting equine hero Imperial Commander there were extra pats and carrots and a day doing nothing more strenuous than stretching his legs in a parade before his public. For his human attendants it was business as usual in less glorious surroundings than Cheltenham – his trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, and jockey, Paddy Brennan, kept their victory roll going with Petite Margot at Ffos Las.
Where horses are concerned that business about pride and falls is not a truism for nothing, but Twiston-Davies is one of the least prone of his profession to any degree of hubris, always preferring to let his horses do the talking. Yesterday morning, after shouting home three winners the previous afternoon, his voice was hoarse enough for that arrangement to have been comfortable.
Imperial Commander seemed to have grown into his name as he tugged stable lass Jo Collinson past the pub down the high street in the village, only a dozen miles from the scene of Friday's glory on the course he has made his own, followed by the yard's other Friday Cheltenham winners, Baby Run and Pigeon Island. For once, Twiston-Davies seemed content to be the centre of attention as hundreds turned out to welcome the trio.
"We are always happy to let others take the pressure of publicity," he said. "We tend to have a quiet life here and that's the way I prefer it, but yesterday was something special and I have to say I'm chuffed to bits."
The trainer can perhaps be forgiven a certain smugness that his belief in his charge was justified. "The Gold Cup was so much about Kauto Star and Denman that ours was the forgotten horse," he added. "But not by us, and it is such a relief to have got it done and dusted."
Imperial Commander has never won away from Cheltenham over fences – though he did run Kauto Star to a nose at Haydock in November – and may try to rectify that omission at Aintree next month in the Totesport Bowl. "He was a fresh horse at the final fence in the Gold Cup and wasn't tired, he had them all covered all through the race," said Twiston-Davies, "and I hope that I am not tempting fate to say that without Kauto and Denman in the field at Aintree it will be a penalty kick."
Brennan, whose career and belief have gone from strength to strength since joining Twiston-Davies two years ago, said: "Kauto Star had to make just one mistake and the race was Imperial's. But none of this is for me – it is for the horse and Nigel."
In its early days the Gold Cup was just a trial for the season's most important contest, the Grand National, and with his third place on Friday, as his boundless stamina kicked in, the reigning Aintree hero Mon Mome took the race back to its roots. The Midlands version of the marathon at Uttoxeter yesterday required even more fortitude; in gruelling, rain-softened conditions, only three of the 17 starters finished. Tony McCoy won it on Synchronised, who missed an engagement at Cheltenham because the ground was considered too fast. Plan B proved the right one – the Jonjo O'Neill-trained seven-year-old, given a stalking ride over nearly four-and-a-quarter miles, prevailed by three-quarters of a length from the trailblazing L'Aventure, posting her best result in five attempts at the prize.
With another Cheltenham in the formbook and Aintree three weeks' distant, the focus is starting to sharpen on the Flat. On Saturday the first feature of the domestic season, the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster, is overshadowed by the extravaganza that is the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup, at the world's most opulent new racecourse, Meydan.
At Lingfield yesterday there was a pointer to events in the Gulf as Tranquil Tiger, stablemate and galloping companion of the Henry Cecil-trained challenger for the $10m purse, Twice Over, took the Winter Derby. "He's been working really well with Twice Over," said Tom Queally, rider of both, "so there was confidence in him."
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Frustrated Steven Gerrard should have started crucial game between Liverpool and Manchester United
Marco Reus becomes Arsenal transfer target to replace Theo Walcott
Paul Scholes: It's amazing Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has so few caps for England
New kits for 2015/16: Have the Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona strips been leaked?
England vs Lithuania: Theo Walcott 'at risk of being left behind' in Three Lions pecking order
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Jeremy Clarkson calls on trolls to leave producer Oisin Tymon alone: 'None of this is his fault'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
£12800 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee CAD Technician is req...
£15600 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This renewable energy installat...
£22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a lead...