No surprises as Master and Commander sail in

Defending a crown generally brings more pressure than challenging for one, so both relief and pleasure washed round Haydock's winner's circle yesterday after the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander, opened his season with an authoritative success in the Betfair Chase. The nine-year-old, ridden by Paddy Brennan, took control of the three-mile contest after the first circuit and, though tiring on the testing ground in the closing stages, held Tidal Bay's late flourish by a length and a quarter.

A year previously, Imperial Commander had lost the Grade One prize by a whisker to the then-reigning Cheltenham champion Kauto Star. "We were the ones there to be shot at this time," said his trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies. "I couldn't be happier with the way things went. He was fit, but not hyper-fit; there's only so much you can do at home."

A foot-perfect Imperial Commander, who erased the memories of last season's post-Cheltenham fall at Aintree, had a collection of smart rivals in trouble as he increased his tempo turning into the home straight, allowing Brennan the luxury of repeated glances behind.

"He was getting high enough over the first few fences but once he found his confidence he was very good," said the rider. "He really turned it on in the straight and showed me what he had. I just tried to nurse him home – it was very deep ground out there – and although the other horse [Tidal Bay] flew at him at the end, mine had a bit left pulling up."

The next assignment for Imperial Commander will be the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, for which he has been shortened in the betting to 5-1 but for which the four-time winner Kauto Star is awarm favourite.

As Commander stamped his authority at Haydock, so did Master at Ascot. The Paul Nicholls-trained Master Minded, running for the first time since he lost his two-mile title at Cheltenham, scored a wide-margin success in the Amlin 1965 Chase. And though he was left clear by Albertas Run's crashing fall three out, he was just beginning to better his rival in their duel at the head of the field.

Master Minded, ridden for the first time by Noel Fehily, jumped quite beautifully for his new partner, who is the one being blown good by the ill wind that removed injured Ruby Walsh from the game. Nicholls has yet to confirm Walsh's replacement on Kauto Star at Kempton but dropped a fairly broad hint by saying: "Noel hasn't done himself any harm today, has he? There's a lot of pressure ridingthese high-profile horses and he's doing a great job."

Fehily rode two more winners for Nicholls at Ascot, the rising hurdling star Silviniaco Conti, who took his record to five for five, and the chaserWoolcombe Folly. The stable instigated a four-timer with an effortless success by the novice hurdler Toubab at Haydock.

Tony McCoy limped feelingly away from his fall from Albertas Run, his third crash of the afternoon, and gave up his remaining rides, nursing a bruised, but not broken, shin.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor