Imperious stable left in total command

ECSTATIC after Gold Cup-winner Imperial Commander's winning comeback, Nigel Twiston-Davies could not contain his delight after his teenage son, Sam, recorded a memorable victory 24 hours later over Aintree's fearsome Grand National fences.

Fifth in the National aboard Hello Bud in April as a 17-year-old, Twiston-Davies junior conjured a winning run out of his faithful servant – just a week after landing a famous Paddy Power Gold Cup aboard the progressive Little Josh.

And, just as the teenager's horsemanship matures with each new jumping test – Hello Bud was

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15-2 favourite for the Becher Chase and had the handle the pressure of expectant punters – so, too, does the reputation of Imperial Commander who demonstrated that his Cheltenham Gold Cup was won on merit.

The reason that the nine-year-old has become chasing's No 1 is his remorseless galloping, coupled with an ability to jump athletically out of heavy going.

He left a quality field in Haydock's Betfair Chase trailing in his wake as Paddy Brennan, the Twiston-Davies stable jockey, took up the lead with half a circuit to go and turned the screw.

Brennan admitted the horse's jumping was "a little rusty" – but that he would be a genuine player in the King George Chase on Boxing Day where his great rival, Kauto Star, will seek an unprecedented fifth successive win. "There's one horse, Kauto Star, but after that, it's anybody's race," observed the jockey.

The worry is that the right-handed track will not suit Imperial Commander, a concern that Brennan accepted, and that a small cut on the horse's near foreleg, picked up during the Haydock slog, could put his participation in doubt.

Twiston-Davies, the winning trainer, was phlegmatic. "We will know in about a week if Imperial Commander can go for the King George.

"He will definitely come on for the race. He hasn't had a racecourse gallop or anything. There's only so much you can do at home, he wasn't absolutely race-fit but fit enough but his jumping was brilliant.

"He showed us that he's still the horse that he was, he was so good that he was left in the lead far longer than I would have perhaps liked."

With six of Imperial Commander's eight wins having come at Cheltenham, the 100-30 ante-post odds for a successful Gold Cup defence look enticing – irrespective of whether he runs in the King George or usurps Kauto Star at the latter's 'second home'.

Equally, few would bet against Twiston-Davies winning next year's National aboard Hello Bud. Their odds were cut to 25-1, although the horse will be 13 next April and older than any winner since 1923 when Sergeant Murphy prevailed.

Yet, once again, this appears to be a partnership made in racing heaven – they bowled along at the head of affairs, took a breather as Ballyvesey took up the running and did not panic when Royal Rosa challenged on the gruelling run-in.

"Hello Bud's stablemate Irish Raptor was third for the aforementioned Brennan as only seven of the 17 starters completed the course.

"The horse is 12, nearly 13, and the boy is 18 just. It was absolutely superb," said Twiston-Davies senior.

"What an excitement that was, I thought we were going to have a one-two but Irish Raptor made that mistake at the second-last.

"Hello Bud is made for these fences and we will definitely come back and have another try at the National. Our worry was that he wouldn't get in, but he will now."

As for the trainer's son, Twiston-Davies junior – his boyish face masks his incredible maturity over steeplechase fences – described his own recent run of success as "unreal" and the horse's performance as "exceptional".

"He jumped from fence to fence and travelled like a superstar," he added.

"When Ballyvesey passed me I just tried to save a little bit turning for home and save the stick for as long as possible."

Both Imperial Commander and Hello Bud were chased home by Yorkshire jockey Brian Hughes aboard Tidal Bay and Royal Rosa respectively.

Yet Hughes, stable jockey to Richmond trainer Alan Swinbank, did follow up his Topham victory last April over the National fences when Frankie Figg won the Grand Sefton Chase yesterday over the big obstacles.

He could be a National horse of the future – but owner Graham Wylie is not sure whether the horse has the endurance for the marathon or, more realistically, whether he's good enough to stop the affectionately named 'Team Twister' bandwagon.