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Imperial Commander on recovery trail at Kempton

A pessimist, dismayed by the sudden suspension of jumps racing, might find it hard to imagine a thaw in time for the race to take place at all.

But optimists yesterday preferred to embrace new grounds for believing that two of the central protagonists at Kempton on Boxing Day, Imperial Commander and Noel Fehily, will each overcome a more tangible menace to their participation.

In fairness, some who consider themselves realists would reckon it in Imperial Commander's best interests not to go anywhere near Kauto Star, in what will very much be a home game for the horse seeking an unprecedented fifth success in the William Hill King George VI Chase.

But Imperial Commander's trainer and owners seem to have their hearts set on disproving a popular theory that he is less effective round Kempton than Cheltenham, scene of his Gold Cup success in March.

And it seems that the cut sustained by Imperial Commander, when making that fluent return to the fray at Haydock 10 days ago, is healing sufficiently to renew those ambitions.

After a week of box rest, the bandages came off his foreleg yesterday. And while Nigel Twiston-Davies, his trainer, stressed that he is “still not certain to get there by any means”, the trainer none the less declared his vet delighted by what he found. “Things are all good,” Twiston-Davies said. “It's healing up really, really well.”

Even so, Imperial Commander will not be able to resume cantering until Thursday at the earliest, in the meantime being confined to roadwork. And while he would always have been due some recuperation after Haydock, he remains perilously close to the margin of a feasible training schedule, certainly if he is to give Kauto Star any more to think about than in two previous King George disappointments.

As for Fehily, he has not yet despaired of his momentous opportunity on Kauto Star after injuring a wrist at Newbury last Friday.

Though a fracture was suspected, X-rays have proved inconclusive and the jockey, offered the mount because Ruby Walsh broke a leg at Down Royal earlier this month, is hoping he can return in time to prove his fitness to Kauto Star's trainer, Paul Nicholls.

Belfast Telegraph