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.

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
Sport
Jose Mourinho, Chelsea players celebrate Demba Ba's goal and Gus Poyet
sportLive coverage of today's final game between Chelsea and Sunderland
News
Brand said he
people
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit