It has only been a couple of weeks since doubts were cast over the participation of Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander in the 2013 Grand National. When a lung infection ruled him out fo the Gold Cup the odds were not favourable but once trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies confirmed his run they have shortened so radically that he will now go off as one of the race favourites.
[Racecard Imperial Commander]
Statistically, and only on paper, the chances of Imperial Commander winning this race are slim given that he will carry top weight of 11st 10lb. A victory would be the greatest weight-carrying performance since Red Rum lugged 12st to the second of his three wins in 1974.
But to counter that, Twiston-Davies recently stating that “He jumps well and he's three stone well-in from when he won the Gold Cup and he can't be three stone worse since then, surely.”
Imperial Commander is also 12-years-old and though that hasn't helped many of the recent older horses win the Grand National, with the quality of those entered getting higher and higher each year and with over 30% of the original 84 entries being 11 years or older, it wouldn't be a surprise if the win didn't go to the traditional nine or ten year old.
Amberleigh House won it in 2004 for Ginger McCain at age 12 and last year's winner, Neptune Collonges, was 11 years old so being twelve may not necessarily be the burden it was once thought to be.
His jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, believes that the Commander is in great form saying “He ran a massive race in the Argento Chase. We had been worried going into the race that he would need the run because we had struggled to get the work into him.
“This time we’ve had a good preparation. We’ve got the work into him and he is definitely fit enough.”
All said, Nigel Twiston-Davies is a man who knows how to train a Grand National winner, having done it twice before with Bindaree in 2002 and Earth Summit in 1998 and even believes that as good as they were, they simply don't compare to Imperial Commander.
“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.”
A horse of this calibre simply can't be dismissed so maybe Sam will get his first Grand National winner and Nigel his third!