Commander set for King George run


Racing:Imperial Commander cantered today and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies now expects him to make the William Hill King George VI Chase.

The totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup hero returned from his Betfair Chase win with a cut leg and his participation in the St Stephen’s Day showpiece had been in doubt.

However the trainer told At The Racestoday: "It's been causing us anxiety but the really good news today is he's had his first canter since. The worry is the cut will open again but it didn't and we're really, really happy and think we're going to get to Kempton now.

"We have plenty of time, the horse was as fit as a flea before this happened, and the worry is he'll just nudge the cut and open it again but at the moment everything is going really well."

The trainer is clearly angered by claims that his stable star isn't as effective going right-handed or that Kempton won't play to his strengths.

"We were told he couldn't win anywhere but Cheltenham but then surprise, surprise, he wins at Haydock. He was only beaten a whisker by Kauto Star there the year before," he added.

"Last year in the King George he got blinded at the second fence and basically split the fence and he was knocked out the race. He actually ran on very well to finish fifth or sixth. The year before he took the race to Kauto Star and was there to the turn for home and then faded - not because he couldn't go right-handed but his lungs were full of muck.

"It's not the track, he's just a difficult horse to have right on the day. When he is right I'm hoping he's nearly unbeatable but we'll see."

Meanwhile Michael Hourigan is not afraid of taking on Little Josh again in this month’s Gold Cup with Dancing Tornado.

The pair were first and second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last month but the Irish raider will be 3lb better off back at Prestbury Park a week on Saturday. However, with current conditions Arctic-like, there has to be some doubt whether the meeting will take place.

"It's more than likely that Dancing Tornado (10st 11lb) will return to Cheltenham for the December Gold Cup. We were very pleased with his run in the Paddy Power and he came out of the race fine," said Hourigan.

"Tony McCoy always said that a big handicap chase at Cheltenham would be the ideal race as they would go a decent gallop. Dancing Tornado would be racing off a higher mark but we will take that on the chin, especially as we will be meeting Little Josh on better terms.

"Hopefully, the racing will be on and his jockey will be decided nearer the time. Tony rode him when he was second in last year's Kerry National whereas Adrian Heskin would be able to take 5lb off again."

Twiston-Davies claimed Little Josh's (11st 4lb) win was one of his best days in racing as his son Sam was on board but while he has his improving chaser in great heart, he doubts the meeting will be on.

"He's in tremendous form and the idea is that he'll be running at Cheltenham but I don't live far from there and it's looking doubtful to me that it will be on," he told At The Races.

"It was a great day, one of the best. It adds to the pressure when Sam rides because everybody knows it is a family thing. He has to be doubly-good for me to put him up really."