Imperial Commander on track to make his return in Betfair at Haydock


Imperial Commander is on track to make his return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained 11-year-old has not been seen since pulling up in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, which was his first run since he won the Haydock race in 2010.

Naunton handler Twiston-Davies said: “He has been very good. “I haven’t had him back very long and it was a case of had he taken one wrong step then we wouldn’t have got him to the Betfair. It’s so difficult when you have got a horse that has had a leg (problem), but he is as fit as I can get him without having had a run. Everyone says is he as good as he was, but who can say?”

Meanwhile, Olofi was finally rewarded for a string of solid efforts in valuable handicaps when he took the Racing Post Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday. Tom George’s grey had made steady progress in this very race, building on his fifth in 2010 when second last year, aside from a near-miss in Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle.

Owner Max McNeill was due further compensation himself, witnessing Walkon come up just a little short after a heroic performance in Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, and the IT solutions expert was punching the air with glee after the 8 to 1 shot galloped two and a half lengths clear of Cash And Go.

It had not been a straightforward race for Paddy Brennan, whose patience has been regularly tested by Olofi, but he escaped being penned in by Bothy approaching the final flight before clearing away.

Bothy’s rider Danny Cook was given a two-day careless riding ban for his troubles. George said: “He had no luck last year, but it’s all come right for him today. He’s a very, very talented horse. He was only beaten four lengths by Zarkandar last year (Betfair Hurdle, Newbury) and everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. Last year you could have run him in the Champion Hurdle and he’d go with anything until the second-last.

“It’s a long shout to go for the Champion, but he’s obviously improving.” Brennan said: “He’s got me so many rollickings this horse, giving him too much to do, but, by doing that, that’s how we’ve had the finished article today. It was just a case of trying to keep him under control and out of the race. The brilliance was always there. It was just getting him to use it. I thought I might be on the floor at one stage, but I was lucky enough to have a horse who was willing and tough enough to get me out of the situation.”

The withdrawal of Sprinter Sacre due to the soft ground robbed the Shloer Chase of its big draw, but Wishfull Thinking still managed to produce an impressive performance to get his career back on track.

Philip Hobbs’ gelding, who can appear untouchable on his day, had scattered spectators with a horrific fall in front of the stands on his previous visit to Prestbury Park in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

But, aside from a poor jump at the first, the 8 to 11 favourite never looked in much danger from his market rival Doeslessthanme.

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