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Commander Cheltenham Build-Up Bang on Target

Despite being denied the chance to run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park in the middle of January after the race was rescheduled but not reopened, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies reports that his Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander is bang on target to make a successful defence of his title at Prestbury Park on March 17, writes Elliot Slater.

Imperial Commander

Imperial Commander
Twiston-Davies had hoped that with the feature Christmas chase being put back three weeks the race would be reopened, allowing him to enter his stable star who had recovered full fitness after sustaining an infection in a cut leg incurred during his winning reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, his only outing so far this term. But the race remained closed to new entries, so having built his charge up to race fitness Twiston-Davies has eased off him again with a mind to bringing him back to the boil for the big race in seven weeks time and the Cheltenham Gold Cup odds suggest he has a decent chance of retaining his crown.

In spite of the 'stop start' training regime since mid-December, the Gloucestershire-based handler is delighted with the way Imperial Commander has been shaping in recent weeks and is fairly bullish about his chances of retaining the title he won last year when proving too strong for Denman and his stable companion Kauto Star, the pair who had been built up by the racing press and general sports media as having the race sewn up between them.

Young pretender, Long Run

Long Run
Henrietta Knight's Best Mate in 2003 was the last horse to win successive Gold Cups, but bookmakers make Imperial Commander a 7/2 favourite to retain his title, ahead of the young pretender Long Run (7/1), impressive winner of the King George VI Chase a few weeks ago. 2008 winner Denman (8/1), Kauto Star (9/1), the winner in both 2007 and 2009, and Diamond Harry (10/1), this season's Hennessy Gold Cup winner, are next in the ante-post lists.

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