IMPERIAL CALL registered a first success over Dorans Pride in four outings and booked a possible crack at Kempton's `King George' when leading throughout the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown yesterday.IMPERIAL CALL registered a first success over Dorans Pride in four outings and booked a possible crack at Kempton's `King George' when leading throughout the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown yesterday.
In a race in which all eight completed the course, a shock success for Bob Treacy might well have materialised had Norman Williamson's mount not crashed through the final fence, leaving Imperial Call in control from a hard pressed Dorans Pride.
The anticipated duel between the 1996 Gold Cup winner and Dorans Pride didn't go according to the script, with the favourite making costly mistakes that left the destination of the near £30,000 winner's prize between Imperial Call and Bob Treacy from the fourth last home.
Looking every inch a class performer in the hands of Paul Carberry, completing a personal hat-trick at the meeting, Imperial Call delighted his legion of fans by jumping quickly and accurately.
This contrasted with Dorans Pride who made the first of his mistakes at the fence in front of the stands first time round.
``It took my horse a long time to get going again after clouting that fence. Jumping out of heavy ground like that doesn't help him,'' explained Richard Dunwoody. Winning trainer Raymond Hurley, who has now saddled Imperial Call to win three of his four starts this season, indicated his personal preference would be for a crack at the King George at Kempton on St Stephens Day, rather than the Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival.
Sarah Lane , speaking on behalf of owners Lisselan Farms in West Cork, also tended to favour the trip to Kempton. ``If the horse is in good form and there's a decent cut in the ground we might well travel over.''
Leading Irish layer Sean Graham reacted to the outcome by going 14/1 for the Gold Cup about Dorans Pride, previously 11/1 and Imperial Call which he rated a 20/1 chance before yesterday's session.
In the short term, an even more significant shortening of the odds related to the third placed Bob Treacy, on which Norman Williamson went close to topping up his Sandown earnings of the previous afternoon on Irish bred Direct Route.
The sponsors cut Bob Treacy to 8/1 favourite (from 20/1) for the £117,000 Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown on December 27 in which Wexford permit holder Michael Hickeys gelding will be competing off his old handicap mark.
Dorans Pride obviously needs to improve his jumping significantly to have a realistic chance of winning a Gold Cup, yet his trainer Michael Hourigan was not unduly dismayed.
``We were beaten today by a very fit horse. I don't think Dorans Pride is at his most affective in that kind of ground,'' he remarked.
Carberry had earlier rewarded favourite backers on the double in partnership with his boss Noel Meade aboard Roses Of Picardy and Native Dara.
Although Roses Of Picardy only mastered Old Trafford close home in the opener, Carberry had an easier task as Native Dara outjumped and outpaced his rivals in the Durkan New Homes Novice Hurdle.
Noel Meade reported that Hill Society, a creditable fourth in the Tingle Creek at Sandown the previous afternoon, was none the worse for his exertions.
Brians Delight foiled a gamble on Section Seven in a grief-stricken Conyngham Cup, maintaining her advantage the favourite which did well to recover from a dreadful blunder four fences out that was instrumental in deciding the outcome in favour of 20-year-old Pat Burke's mount from the Michael Cunningham stable.