sport

Commander gears up for Gold

Nigel Twiston-Davies is aiming to complete Imperial Commander's preparation for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup with a racecourse gallop.

The 2010 winner is a frequent visitor to tracks away from competitive action and his trainer remains confident that despite reaching the venerable age of 12, he can still give his younger opponents a run for their money.

The course specialist has been dogged by injury since his prestigious success and was pulled up lame when attempting to defend his title a year later.

Returning to action for the first time since the 2011 mishap in January's Argento Chase, Imperial Commander was involved in a thrilling battle with Cape Tribulation and only just came off second best.

The returning hero appeared in decent nick when cantering up the trainer's gallops at Grange Hill Farm in Naunton on Monday.

Twiston-Davies said: "I was hoping to take him to Newbury on Saturday but they won't let us. They want us to go on Sunday, and if I can't find anywhere on Saturday or this week then we may go on the Sunday."

Reflecting on the Argento run, he said: "It was astonishingly good.

"If you'd offered me that second, I'd have been delighted as he'd had such a bad run up to it. He'd fractured the splint bone, he'd been swimming a lot but only had four weeks cantering and maybe that's not really enough. He doesn't seem an awful lot worse than he was three years ago."

The Welshman would never claim to be a form specialist and worries little about the claims of Imperial Commander.

Neither is he a subscriber to the 'bounce factor', where horses returning from a long absence can run well on their reappearance, only to disappoint next time.

"I thought that was when you come back very quick," he said.

"This is six weeks, so we're not coming back very quick. We let him down a bit, he didn't do anything the week after, and we've brought him back very gently. I can't see that."