Commander Brennan targets Imperial rule

PADDY BRENNAN is feeling confident ahead of Imperial Commander’s first run of the season in Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained nine-year-old ended the domination of Paul Nicholls in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last term and will be going all out to retain his crown in March.

That performance was no flash in the pan, however, as he was denied by the narrowest of margins in Haydock’s biggest race 12 months ago by the great Kauto Star.

Imperial Commander disappointed in the King George VI Chase in between and fell at Aintree after Cheltenham, but Brennan could not be happier with his partner’s current condition.

“He seems in great form and he looks very fit,” Brennan said.

“I schooled him and he felt every bit as well if not better than last year.

“He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to at home. Nigel is happy with him and I was very happy with the way he’s schooled.

“I don’t think he needs to prove anything more away from Cheltenham considering he was just touched off by Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last year.

“He was very unlucky last year. His head was down when Kauto’s was up. I thought we’d won it at first.

“He’s normally a very good jumper. It’s important to get over those first few fences and get into a nice rhythm but it’s the same for everybody.

“There’s always pressure, whether you’re in a selling hurdle or in races like this, but I’m just privileged to be riding the best horse in the race.

“There’s no such thing as a good thing in racing but I couldn’t be happier with my horse.”

Tom George believes he will not be short of potential suitors for the ride on Nacarat.

Sam Thomas partnered the grey to a facile success in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby but has opted to ride the Paul Nicholls-trained What A Friend on Merseyside.

“We haven’t decided who will ride him yet, I need to speak to his owner, Simon Clarke,” said George.

“I’m sure somebody will make themselves available, we won’t be short of offers.

“It’s just unfortunate that Paddy and Sam, the two guys who could have ridden him, are required for other runners, that’s just the way it goes.

“If the ground stays as it is (good to soft), he’ll run.

“He really enjoys Kempton and I think he’s improved since last year so we just hope it isn’t too soft there.

“We’ve been able to train him properly this year whereas before we were always going round in circles.”

Meanwhile David Pipe is looking forward to renewing rivalries with Denman when he saddles Madison du Berlais in the Hennessy Gold Cup Newbury a week on Saturday.

Pipe’s nine-year-old landed the valuable pot in 2008 and followed up that performance by beating Denman at Kempton in February 2009.

After the withdrawal of Kauto Star, Denman will now head the weights as he bids for an historic third victory, with Madison du Berlais racing off just 10st 1lb.

“The defection of Kauto Star from the Hennessy Gold Cup has certainly opened things up a little bit (if not a great deal!) with Denman likely to be the top weight for Newbury’s feature on Saturday week,” said Pipe.

“With a rating of 182 Denman will still leave many of his rivals out of the handicap proper, although Madison du Berlais will creep in with a nice racing weight.

“He put in a pleasing effort over hurdles on his reappearance at Exeter and that will have done him good — he won the Hennessy in 2008 and has since twice beaten Denman, so we are looking forward to renewing rivalries there,” he told his website,

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