Imperial Call set for Leopardstown


IMPERIAL CALL was yesterday morning declared "in grand form" and will run in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup next Sunday. Last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, under a cloud to date this term, delighted Fergie Sutherland in work-outs at the weekend and is all set to aim for a repeat victory in the £100,000 Leopardstown race.

"He's fine," the trainer said.

"He did a nice bit of work up the hill yesterday and he schooled this morning and he is in grand form. I'm chuffed with him as he is pinging."

Minor problems have restricted Imperial Call to just one outing since his Gold Cup triumph last March, a final-fence fall with the race at his mercy at Punchestown last month.

But Sutherland said: "These things happen in racing and you can't always have things go right but he'll be fine at Leopardstown."

The eight-year-old is 7 to 2 favourite with William Hill to become the first horse since L'Escargot in 1970 and 1971 to land the Gold Cup in successive years.

Sunday will see the first anniversary of his leap into the big time with a six-length defeat of Master Oats. This time around he faces a clash with The Grey Monk, one of Gordon Richards' four Gold Cup contenders, and three-time Hennessy winner Jodami, an 11th-hour scratching last year, as well as leading novice Danoli.

Gordon Richards yesterday confirmed The Grey Monk a definite runner. The gelding has not run since his four-length second to Coome Hill in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury last November.

But his trainer said: "Fitness will not be a problem. It has been frustrating not being able to run him but he is very well and in good form and he will go to Leopardstown.

And Richards admitted: "It won't be easy. But you don't go all the way over to Ireland expecting it to be easy. They don't give anything away over there."

Paul Nicholls, another English trainer likely to be represented in the big race, also intends sending See More Business to the meeting.