Commander sets sights on Aintree

CHELTENHAM Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander heads 13 entries for the Totesport Bowl at Aintree on Thursday.

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has signalled his intention to run the nine-year-old in the 25-furlong feature as long as he is happy with the condition of his charge.

“He’s in great form. We’ve been taking it very easily with him since the big race,” the Naunton handler told At The Races.

“I’d love to go to Aintree with him, but if there’s any shadow of a doubt that he’s not as well as he was then we wouldn’t run him.

“He’ll tell us and we’ll only run him if we think he’s going to run the race of his life.”

There is likely to be plenty of stiff opposition which could include What A Friend, co-owned by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

The Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old has not raced since winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December.

Among other possibles are Ryanair Chase victor Albertas Run, the Queen’s Barbers Shop, Nicky Richards’ grey Monet’s Garden plus Carruthers and Calgary Bay, who were fourth and sixth respectively in the Gold Cup.

Completing the entries are Killyglen, Madison Du Berlais, Master Medic, Nacarat, Notre Pere and Planet Of Sound.

Meanwhile, conditions could be set fair for the John Smith’s Grand National with no rain forecast for the second half of next week.

The prospect of dry weather for the three-day meeting that starts on Thursday is giving officials at Aintree reason to be optimistic.

Rain was expected overnight into Saturday and after a bright Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the track could see showers before the weather settles down.

“Rain was due over Friday into Saturday, but Sunday should be a nice day and we can expect a bit more rain on Monday and Tuesday,” said clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch.

“It looks like it’s going to settle down a little after that, fingers crossed.

“The ground might still be on the easy side for the meeting, but at the moment they are saying Monday and Tuesday is the last rain we are looking at.”

Colin Tizzard will be hoping the ground does not dry out too much for his Grand National runner Joe Lively.

“He is most definitely heading for the National,” said the Dorset trainer.

“He found things happening too fast in the William Hill Trophy at Cheltenham last time but his run before was cracking form behind Taranis.

“I hope the ground is soft on the day and four and a half miles will suit him down to the ground.

“The weight (11st 6lb) is the only thing that could be an issue but we can’t alter that.

“The distance will suit and he has been a good, solid jumper all his life.”

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