Commander's green light for Kauto Star showdown
DURING this period of suspended animation in jumps racing, even a single canter by the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner represents a pretty major development.
The one completed by Imperial Commander yesterday was his first since a successful reappearance at Haydock 12 days ago, in the course of which he sustained a gashed foreleg. And it prompted his trainer to confirm him right back on target for a showdown with Kauto Star at Kempton.
When the bandages were removed on Monday, Nigel Twiston-Davies was positive about the rate of healing but admitted he could not yet commit the horse to the King George VI Chase. However, after seeing him restored to exercise, the trainer was happy to give the green light.
"It has been causing us anxiety," Twiston-Davies admitted. "But we're really happy and think we're going to get to Kempton now. We have plenty of time -- the horse was as fit as a flea before this happened."
Twiston-Davies is also hoping that his son, Sam, will today win an appeal against a careless riding suspension picked up at Kempton last week. As things stand, he will not be eligible to ride Little Josh when that horse returns to the scene of their recent shared breakthrough, at Cheltenham on Saturday week.
In the meantime, the Turf stands hard as iron. Even the emergency all-weather fixture at Lingfield today is not certain to survive, with heavy snow yesterday warranting a morning inspection. Meetings as distant as next Wednesday are already in doubt -- the hilltop track at Hexham is under two feet of snow.
But there is a glimmer of hope for a thaw in some parts this weekend. With snow on the track at Sandown, it may come too late to save tomorrow's card, but rather milder temperatures are being predicted for Saturday.
Good news came for one jockey yesterday as Robert Thornton has completed a miraculous recovery from a serious knee ligament injury -- some six months ahead of schedule.
Thornton, stable jockey to the powerful Alan King yard, was unseated from Hell's Bay at Newton Abbot in July when the chaser tried to duck out at the second-last, sending Thornton flying through the wing.
Initial reports suggested he would be out of action for a year, but the jockey has always hoped to be back within six months. And after a visit to British Horseracing Authority chief medical officer Dr Michael Turner, Thornton was give the all-clear to resume riding.
"It's great news that I'm allowed back," said Thornton. "Unbelievably, after all this time off the weather looks like it might be another week or two. I've been riding out at Alan King's so I'm ready to return when racing does."
Elsewhere, Mr Greeley, one of the leading sires in the United States, has been put down after suffering laminitis complications. His progeny had made an increasing impact in Europe through the likes of Reel Buddy and Finsceal Beo. (© Independent News Service)