• Racing/
  • Imperial Bids For Dream Farewell

Hennessy Gold Cup Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) 3m 2f 110y

  • (4yo+, 3m 2f 110y, Class 1, 21 runners)
  • Winner £99,662 2nd £37,398 3rd £18,725 4th £9,328 5th £4,322 6th £2,590
  • Going: Good, Good to Soft in places
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 6m 28.20s
  • Off time: 15:03:05
Full result
Result 15:00 Newbury
Pos Horse Distance/th> Odds
1st 10 Triolo D'alene 20/1
2nd 7 Rocky Creek 8/1
3rd 16 Theatre Guide 33/1
4th 18 Highland Lodge 9 6/1
  • Last Updated: November 29 2013, 19:00 GMT

Imperial Commander will try to bow out in a blaze of glory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.

Imperial Commander: Brings curtain down on remarkable career in Hennessy
Imperial Commander: Brings curtain down on remarkable career in Hennessy

The Our Friends In the North syndicate who own the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero have decided the 12-year-old will sign off in the prestigious staying handicap chase whatever the result.

They believe the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding is ready to run a big race as he bids to be the oldest horse ever to win the Hennessy.

"The syndicate as a whole are keen to retire the horse after the race. We see this as his last race. We are keen to retire him as we don't want to see him racing as a 13-year-old," said syndicate member Hugh Doubtfire.

"He's done everything we could have possibly have hoped for. He's run in the Gold Cup, the Grand National, the Paddy Power, the Ryanair - what an amazing horse he is.

"From the owners' point of view we realise we could keep going, but the plan is to run him in the Hennessy and say goodbye to him in terms of his racing career. Everybody in the racing world is not going to see him race again.

"We've been so thrilled and are so proud. We want him to get a good send-off on the track. We want him to go out the way he deserves.

"He was back in training earlier than usual this year as he ended up not going back to Ireland, so he's very fit and well and Nigel is very happy with him,"

"He's been working well with other horses at home and seems incredibly fit and well and Nigel says he couldn't have him in a better place in terms of where we are now coming into the race.

Hugh Doubtfire "He's been working well with other horses at home and seems incredibly fit and well and Nigel says he couldn't have him in a better place in terms of where we are now coming into the race. I think he will run a big race."
Hugh Doubtfire

"Obviously he's 12 years old and at the end of the day, he may not have the speed he had. Given that situation, one still hopes that his record fresh means he should run a big race.

"Personally I would have liked to have seen softer ground because he's 12 and they tend to go quite quick in the Hennessy. Although traditionally he had a high cruising speed, I think in the Argento earlier this year he travelled ever so well in the heavy ground. Providing the ground doesn't get too quick, I think he will run a big race."

In contrast, it could be said to be almost the start for Invictus. The seven-year-old, trained by Alan King, has not raced since beating Bobs Worth, last season's Hennessy and Gold Cup hero, in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot in February 2012.

Despite a 21-month absence, Invictus has been near at the head of the ante-post market since betting opened.

"I think his odds are absurd as, while there are plenty of positives, he also has questions to answer," the Barbury Castle handler told www.alankingracing.co.uk.

"He has been to Newbury twice for racecourse gallops and he's working very well, and we couldn't have done any more with him fitness-wise.

"He seems to have retained all of his ability and I think the ground will be absolutely fine, as I don't think he wants extremes. He's also quite possibly well handicapped.

Alan King "We are going into the unknown as he has never run in a big field of handicappers so he lacks experience, but I have never disguised how highly we rate him and, while he faces a huge task, we are looking forward to the challenge."
Alan King

"Everything has gone great in his preparation, but it is just a shame that we were unable to squeeze a prep-race in and whatever he does here he will, hopefully, improve on next time.

"We are going into the unknown as he has never run in a big field of handicappers - all his wins came in five- or six-runner novices - so he lacks experience, but I have never disguised how highly we rate him and, while I emphasise he faces a huge task, we are looking forward to the challenge."

Dougie Costello has come in for the plum spare ride on Lord Windermere due to an injury to Robbie McNamara.

The leading Irish amateur broke his collarbone schooling for Dermot Weld on Friday morning and trainer Jim Culloty has snapped up Costello to partner last season's RSA Chase winner in the prestigious staying handicap chase.

"I'm thrilled. He's got a serious chance and I'm over the moon to be asked," said Costello. "I've seen him plenty and I'll watch a few more replays of his runs tonight again and I'll speak to Jim and Robbie.

"It's a shame on Robbie's part. It was such a good ride and just one of those things. It's a great spare for me to pick up."

Culloty said: "Dougie's a good rider. It's not ideal having to change at the last minute but these things happen. Lord Winderwere is in great form."

Lord Windermere has been well-supported this week as he tries to emulate Bobs Worth by winning both the RSA Chase and Hennessy in the same year.

"He's done plenty and is as fit as I can get him. He did a blinding piece of work last week at the Curragh and I couldn't be happier with him," the County Cork handler told At The Races.

"Obviously going into a race like that I'd have loved to have had a run under his belt, but that's not the case. It's ground conditions really as much as anything in Ireland. It's been a lot drier in Ireland than it has in England.

"He's a year older and he is the exact same weight as he was for his first time out last year.

Jim Culloty "He's done plenty and is as fit as I can get him. He did a blinding piece of work last week at the Curragh and I couldn't be happier with him. He's promised to be a horse better over a longer trip. I think we are going there with a very good chance."
Jim Culloty

"He's promised to be a horse better over a longer trip. We started him off over two miles as he'd got form at that trip over hurdles and we gradually stepped him up.

"But last season in Ireland, the ground was absolutely bottomless the whole year basically so that's why I didn't step him up three miles earlier. Saturday's race will be furthest than he's ever gone in his life, but I'm not worried about that really.

"I think we are going there with a very good chance. I'd be far more confident had we had a run under our belt, but that's how it is."

Leading owner Andy Stewart is hoping he can break his Hennessy Gold Cup hoodoo with the spiritual help of his late friend David Johnson who died in July.

Johnson's colours were carried to victory in this prestigious staying handicap chase by Celestial Gold in 2004, while Stewart looked like being successful with Big Buck's five years ago only for his subsequently brilliant hurdler to exit at the final fence.

The Stewart and Johnson families team up with the Paul Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek, with the Johnsons sharing ownership in Our Father, trained by David Pipe, with the Ives family.

Stewart is praying one of the two horses can land the spoils.

"If this horse can't win it then I really hope Our Father wins it for David Johnson. He will be up in heaven watching the race alongside Sir Henry Cecil," he said.

"I have never won the Hennessy before. We thought we might five years ago with Big Buck's, but obviously he didn't.

"All I can say about Rocky Creek is I saw him work at Wincanton with Salubrious a few weeks ago and he destroyed him. Salubrious came out and ran very well at Cheltenham and is now rated 153.

"Rocky Creek has done a lot of work. Paul Nicholls is Paul Nicholls, but he is as confident as he can be ahead of what is a very competitive handicap.

"We felt last season Rocky Creek could be a Hennessy horse for this year. He was just caught by a horse of Kim Bailey's at Exeter who now looks as though he could be a Gold Cup contender (Harry Topper).

"We are very much looking forward to the race and it is going to be a big day."

Nicholls reports Rocky Creek to be raring to go for his seasonal reappearance.

He said: "He did well last season, winning three races including the Reynoldstown. I've given him a couple of racecourse gallops and he's done plenty of schooling, I couldn't get him any fitter."

Andy Stewart "Paul Nicholls is as confident as he can be ahead of a very competitive handicap. He was just caught by Harry Topper at Exeter who now looks as though he could be a Gold Cup contender. We're very much looking forward to the race; it is going to be a big day"
Andy Stewart

Our Father tends to reserve his best performance for his first run of the season and has won first time out for the last three years although he may be partnered by a new jockey following the injury to Timmy Murphy (click here for story).

"Our Father is very good first time out, but for some reason his form tails off after that," said Pipe. "He's in very good form, the track and distance will be absolutely fine, but he's probably a shorter price than he should be.

"It would be fantastic to win another Hennessy. David Johnson was involved in this horse so it would obviously mean a lot to his family and the whole yard."

Willie Mullins, whose Be My Royal was later disqualified for testing positive for a banned substance after winning in 2002, tries his luck with Prince De Beauchene and Terminal, with Ireland seeking a first win since Bright Highway in 1980.

"Prince De Beauchene will love the ground. I think he has the stamina for this but he has a lot of weight to expect to win a race of this calibre," Mullins said.

"The stats are against us, both with his age and the fact he's trained in Ireland. But I thought he ran a good trial for this race in Down Royal, I've been happy with him since and he deserves to take his chance in one of the season's feature races.

"Terminal is only a six-year-old, but he's got a nice weight and he'll like the extra distance and the ground."

Harry Fry is hoping cheekpieces will work the oracle with Opening Batsman, who has been disappointing in both his starts since he lifted the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton in February.

"Aintree was one run too many and then at Ascot we were very disappointed," said the Dorset handler. "Once the tapes went up he never travelled and never jumped.

"He's not had an ideal preparation, but he has since worked and schooled with cheekpieces, which is what he is wearing at the weekend. We have to find more improvement to remain competitive on the mark he is. We think he has at home, but until we see it on the track it's difficult to say."

Emma Lavelle "He's an out-and-out galloper so to run as well as he did and on ground which wasn't ideal I was delighted with him and they pulled miles clear of everything else. He's on a proper racing weight and goes to Newbury with a chance, definitely."
Emma Lavelle

Highland Lodge delighted his trainer Emma Lavelle when second to Standing Ovation on his reappearance at Wincanton last month.

"I needed to get a run into him as I wasn't sure he'd get into the Hennessy off his mark from last season," the Andover trainer said.

"Wincanton wasn't ideal as a track. He's an out-and-out galloper so to run as well as he did and on good ground which wasn't ideal I was delighted with him and they pulled miles clear of everything else.

"It was a good run and he went up in the weights. As it happened he would have got into the Hennessy anyway. He's on a proper racing weight and he goes to Newbury with a chance, definitely. I think he's a bit more on his game than he was at Wincanton."

Malcolm Jefferson reports Cape Tribulation to be in fine shape as he attempts to defy top weight.

"He schooled on Tuesday and schooled well, he looks very well and is working exceptionally well," said the North Yorkshire trainer. "He carried a big weight when he won at Liverpool (Grand National meeting of 2012) and he's run well off top weight in other races.

"He's a classy horse, he just lacks a few pounds that makes him top class. When you get horses like that they are hard to place. We could have either run in the Betfair last week, which was a mini Gold Cup, or run here.

"He's been fifth in a Gold Cup and a lot of the others still have it all to prove. It will be tough off top weight but there's nothing around 10st that looks thrown in."

Colin Tizzard took the Betfair Chase with Cue Card and expects a good run from Theatre Guide if he stays the trip.

"It's a bit unknown stepping up in trip, but he's got loads of pace so if he can travel he will stay," said the Dorset handler. "That's when we will find out how good he is and he's got a nice type of weight (10st 13lb).

"When he fell at Kempton last year in that good novice (Pendil Novices' Chase) he was staying on that day and hit the top of the last when he would have won. It looks as though he stays, so we'll see."

Aidan Coleman "He was talked of as a serious Cheltenham Gold Cup horse last season. I have to say he looks a million dollars and he has been impressing us at home. If there are no ill-effects then I think he's a very good bet to make the frame at 12/1."
Aidan Coleman

Nicky Henderson has two Hennessy wins to his credit with Trabolgan and Bobs Worth and has two bites at the cherry in Triolo d'Alene and Hadrian's Approach.

"Both are in good form. We were deciding with Triolo d'Alene whether to go up to Aintree and the Becher, or go for the Hennessy. He had a nice start at Ascot and will come on for it," said the Seven Barrows trainer.

"Hadrian's Approach was only running over two and a half at Kempton and he will improve for the step up to three."

Katenko has been absent since winning at Cheltenham at the end of January but Aidan Coleman revealed on his Racing UK blog that he is excited about seeing the seven year old back in action.

"He was talked of as a serious Cheltenham Gold Cup horse last season after a couple of impressive wins," his big race jockey revealed.

"There was a lot of hype about him, which seemed a touch over the top as you have to remember those wins were in handicap company. He would have needed to have improved an awful lot to be a Gold Cup horse.

"He never made it to Cheltenham as he was struck down by colic, which left him fighting for his life. So it's just fantastic that he's recovered, let alone reappearing on a racecourse.

"I have to say he looks a million dollars and he has been impressing us at home, but you never know if the whole episode will have left its mark on not - until he runs.

"I'm not saying he won't live up the hype, but we just need to be a bit more realistic at this stage of his career.

"That said, if there are no ill-effects then I think he's a very good bet to make the frame at 12/1. He's done nothing but improve since we've had him, and I don't think we've got to the bottom of him. Fingers crossed there will be a lot more to come from him."

Coleman also had news of the Venetia Williams' stable's other runner, Houblon Des Obeaux and revealed that his choice between the pair was far from straightforward.

"I was on Houblon when he won the United House Gold Cup at Ascot. He won very nicely that day and beat a good, competitive field.

"I just have the feeling that he might be up against it. He's not a big horse and has a big weight, having shot up 10lbs and he might struggle. I hope I am wrong though," he added.


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