Twiston-Davies switches strategy for Commander

Trainer maps out direct line of march back to Festival for the Gold Cup winner with one aim in mind

A champion hurdle runner-up contests the race run in Best Mate's memory at Exeter today – but a rather more substantial legacy was evident as the holder of the trophy he won three times came bounding up a hill in the Cotswolds yesterday. Imperial Commander, stepping up preparations for his reappearance at Haydock next month, will have only two more races this season after the Betfair Chase. And his trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, admitted that he must stifle his usual instincts to meet the example set by Henrietta Knight with Best Mate.

As tends to be the case, Twiston-Davies is having a prolific autumn. Fifty winners already leave him behind only Evan Williams in the nascent trainers' table. When they are in this kind of form, his horses seem so tough and aggressive they might have been hewn from the quarry adjacent to the yard. It is a different story, however, for the very best of them. Khyber Kim's comeback has been delayed until Kempton at Christmas, after which he will go straight to the Stan James Champion Hurdle. And Imperial Commander has dead aim on just three big days: 20 November, 26 December and 18 March.

True, he took precisely the same route when winning the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup last season. But he was then turned out at Aintree less than three weeks later, already spent when unseating at the 14th – confirming an overall pattern that suggests he is best fresh. And Twiston-Davies, with his strategy clear, reckons Imperial Commander "will definitely be more forward" for the Betfair Chase than when just failing to beat Kauto Star last year.

"We've made a conscious effort," the trainer said. "He was far from fit for it last year. And we've mapped out this programme of only three runs, so we'll make sure he's ready for the first one. It worked for Best Mate. I love to run them. But Liverpool was a disaster, and very much my idea. I did feel huge pressure, because everyone said I was a dick to go, and it didn't work out."

Twiston-Davies was hosting one of those media open mornings that broaden the reach of his description for one of the first up the gallop, old Ollie Magern: "As enthusiastic as ever, and mad as a hatter." Once again he drove his guests maybe 200 yards in a double-decker, the odd stirrup cup being spilled as the old bus bounced and rattled and belched along. And once again Twiston-Davies had a considered verdict on some of the theories still proposed for Imperial Commander, for instance that he should not return to Kempton on Boxing Day, after two previous failures, because he does not handle right-handed tracks.

"Absolute, total bollocks," Twiston-Davies declared. "Two years ago he came back with a lung infection, and even then he had been the only one to take the race to Kauto Star. And last year he got blinded at the second fence, and ran a superb race even to finish where he did, having got so far back."

Among those who now share that view is the stable jockey, Paddy Brennan, who once felt Imperial Commander was better left-handed. "But then I rode him round Kempton three weeks before the Gold Cup," he said. "He gave me a feel like no horse I've ridden. If you look back, there has always been a reason when he hasn't run well."

Regardless, the two men have sufficient confidence in each other to remain quite relaxed about disagreeing in public. Brennan, for instance, suspects that a hard race at Haydock contributed to his latest defeat at Kempton. "That's why Kauto Star is so good," he said. "Because it would be something for any horse to get over the sort of race they had at Haydock. Imperial Commander is more like Denman, likes to be fresh."

Now Imperial Commander has proved himself a match for both rivals. "Kauto Star and Denman are amazing horses," Twiston-Davies said. "But this time they're the ones who have questions to answer." Not that he has himself enjoyed many palpable dividends, in terms of new patronage. "You don't tend to get many new owners," Twiston-Davies said. "But your existing ones might think you a bit less of a prat."

Knight has a rather bleaker perspective, Best Mate's owner having since started to send horses to Paul Nicholls instead. The champion trainer is odds-on to win the chase sponsored by Jim Lewis at Exeter with Celestial Halo, almost certainly the most accomplished hurdler he has ever sent over fences.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Di Stefano (4.30 Lingfield)

Has only ever won a maiden but was placed three times in Listed company last season, and handicap rating has since collapsed by 21lb. Pontefract fourth represented immediate promise on his debut for David Nicholls.



Next best

Sukhothai (3.50 Yarmouth)

No Frankel, this Warren Place filly, but has a good pedigree and showed glimpses of ability in qualifying for a very modest rating. Was entitled to need the run last time and switch to turf and extra furlong could prompt improvement.



One to watch

Final Verse (Tor Sturgis) is in the veteran stage now, but made a promising start for his latest yard at Lingfield last week. Very well treated on the form of his younger days.



Where the money's going

Casamento is 2-1 favourite with Totesport for the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday, with another Irish raider, Dunboyne Express, 100-30.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
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

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java,Artificial Intelligence)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Front-Of...

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York