Nigel Twiston-Davies trusts Imperial Commander for Grand National

Nigel Twiston-Davies with his 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander

Powered by article titled “Grand National: Nigel Twiston-Davies has trust in Imperial Commander” was written by Chris Cook, for The Guardian on Tuesday 2nd April 2013 19.52 UTC

“I’m hoping for a very good three days,” said Nigel Twiston-Davies on Tuesday as he contemplated his squad for Aintree’s Grand National meeting and it is not hard to see why, following the decision that Imperial Commander will definitely line up in the famous race on Saturday. The 12-year-old has been the subject of sustained support in recent days and is now no bigger than 16-1, having been double those odds a week ago.

“It really is exciting,” said the trainer about the decision, made by a syndicate of eight owners, to let Imperial Commander take part. An extra reason for Twiston-Davies to be thrilled is that his son, Sam, will ride the horse in a race for the first time, as the regular jockey, Paddy Brennan, is suspended.

Asked to assess Imperial Commander’s chances, the trainer said: “The National is the National but they should be superb. He jumps well and he’s three stone well-in from when he won the Gold Cup [in 2010] and he can’t be three stone worse since then, surely.”

Indeed Twiston-Davies is reluctant to accept the suggestion of any sort of decline, saying he thought Imperial Commander was going to win this year’s Gold Cup until his preparation was interrupted by an untimely virus. “But let’s put a positive on every negative; if he’d run then, he wouldn’t be as fresh and well and fit as he is now. He did the most superb piece of work this morning.”

Before this horse joined his yard near Cheltenham the high points of Twiston-Davies’ career were a pair of Grand National victories in 1998 and 2002. The winners of those races are fondly remembered but still do not quite compare with his latest star, in the trainer’s view.

“Bindaree was a class horse but he wasn’t as classy as Imperial Commander, by any means. Earth Summit was just an out-and-out stayer who won on heavy ground. This horse won a Gold Cup on the same ground that we’ll have at the weekend.”

No topweight has won the National since Red Rum but Twiston-Davies is unimpressed by such issues, pointing out that his horse has only 4lb more than last year’s hero, Neptune Collonges. He has schooled Imperial Commander over Aintree-style spruce-covered fences and all went well. “He’s not going to hit them anyway, because he doesn’t hit fences.”

Another horse in the yard, Major Malarkey, needs just one withdrawal between now and Friday morning to make the final field of 40 for Saturday’s race. “On good ground, he’d have a very good chance,” the trainer said.

“He’s not as good as the Commander but he’s a real stayer.” Viking Blond would also run if sneaking into the bottom of the field, but that requires an unlikely four withdrawals.

Twiston-Davies hopes to get things off to a good start when he fields The New One in the Aintree Hurdle on Thursday. A winner at the Cheltenham Festival, the five-year-old is favourite, despite being a novice against established runners of Champion Hurdle calibre.

“I always say the bookmakers know more than the rest of us,” said the trainer when told of the betting. “He’s definitely the improver and you could say the others are not as good as they were.

“He’s fine. He takes his races terribly well. He didn’t come off the bridle [at Cheltenham] until between the last two flights.”

Among a sizeable team for Aintree, Twiston-Davies also noted that Little Josh would have “a very good chance” in Friday’s Topham and put in a good word for Astracad in first-time blinkers for Thursday’s Red Rum Handicap Chase.

But there was bad news on Tuesday night from Twiston-Davies’s great friend and rival Philip Hobbs, who announced that his Fair Along had died from colic over Easter weekend. The 11-year-old had won 16 races and £430,000 in prize money. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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