Saturday could provide an afternoon to savour for members of Imperial Racing – with Imperial Aura heading to Ascot and Imperial Alcazar well fancied at Haydock.
No stranger to big-race success – indeed Imperial Commander won the arguably biggest of them all, the Gold Cup, at Cheltenham in 2010 – this weekend has the potential to potentially rank with the syndicate’s best days.
Imperial Aura, trained by Kim Bailey, is already a Cheltenham Festival winner and looked better than ever in the Colin Parker Memorial at Carlisle on his return. He runs in a fascinating Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase, while Imperial Alcazar is among the favourites for the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle.
“With Imperial Aura we are in a position where we are thinking of the Ryanair, and I think we’ve every right to,” said Ian Robinson of Imperial Racing.
“He was very impressive at Carlisle, particularly on that ground as the placed horses would have liked it more.”
Imperial Aura only faces three rivals, but all have shown top-class form.
“It’s an interesting race, we know what Black Corton is, he never runs a bad race, Real Steel was the unheralded horse from the Gold Cup, beaten just over seven lengths and last off the bridle. He’s gone from one top trainer to another. Itchy Feet has probably got development in him as well,” said Robinson.
“It probably won’t be a blistering pace with only four runners, but our horse does nothing but jump and he’s got an engine.
“We think he does stay three miles, but have decided to stick down the two-four/two-five route this season and he’ll either enhance his Ryanair credentials or he won’t. We’ll know more at 3pm on Saturday.”
Earlier in the season Imperial Aura was among the market leaders for last weekend’s Paddy Power Gold Cup – a race Imperial Commander won for the syndicate.
“Before the Paddy Power people were trying to draw comparisons with Imperial Commander, but he only had to run off 139 – this lad was on 157,” said Robinson.
“The Colin Parker was the right race for him and it’s also close to my heart as I lived in Carlisle for 27 years. In my youth I remember the likes of Ferdy Murphy and Lenny Lungo sending some really nice horses and in fact Nigel Twiston-Davies (Imperial Commander’s trainer), that was where I first spotted him when he came up.
“I didn’t want to go in the Paddy Power off 157 first time out and when it rained on Saturday it made it quite nice to be able to sit back and watch and not wonder what might have been.
“It’s a very competitive race and they are the races you want to be involved in.”
At Haydock, the Fergal O’Brien-trained Imperial Alcazar looks to build on a promising season in novice hurdles.
“It’s turned into a big day I suppose,” continued Robinson.
“With Imperial Alcazar we were torn between going over fences or not, or going for this. He wants this trip, he’ll like the course and he won’t mind what the ground is.
“Paddy Brennan is very enthusiastic about the way he’s come out of the summer, but this has really turned into a fascinating race – at least I’d see it like that if we didn’t have a runner! It’s red-hot.
“Who knows what Ronan McNally has left in his locker with The Jam Man, you’ve a horse in Main Fact who has won eight in a row, there are a couple of graded horses at the top (Kalashnikov and Wholestone), Relegate won a Champion Bumper and the winner of the Pitmen’s Derby (Who Dares Wins) as well. And don’t forget Olly Murphy’s horse (Collooney). There’s a lot with chances.
“We know we’ll stay, travel and hopefully he’ll be there at the finish. We certainly think he’s better than a 140-rated horse. Whether he has enough in the tank to beat a field of that type, I don’t know.
“He’s go to step up but we have to make the leap one day, if he’s as good as we think he is this is the right race for him.
“If we’d gone chasing he’d be going without any real experience behind him, he’s still quite backward in many ways so this race will do him good whatever happens.”
Unfortunately for Robinson and every other syndicate, the joy of owning a horse at present has been curtailed somewhat due to the pandemic and while he could have gone to one of the meetings, he has given the opportunity to others.
“I’m not going to either, we’re down to two badges a runner and having to run a ballot system. I just think it’s right I step out of the ballot to give everyone a chance so we have four lucky attendees,” he said.