Horse racing: Commander ready for King George battle

GOLD Cup winner Imperial Commander looks like being fit to run in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Nigel Twiston-Davies' star returned to action with a win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, but suffered a little nick that threw his participation into doubt. But, after having his first canter yesterday morning, the Naunton handler is confident his charge will be given the green light for the Kempton showpiece.

Twiston-Davies told At The Races: "The cut has caused us a lot of anxiety, but the really good news today is he's had his first canter since then and the cut didn't open up. The worry was that it was going to open up again, so we are really happy and think we are going to get to Kempton now.

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"We've got plenty of time. The horse is as fit as a flea. It's whether the cut gets nudged and it opens up again.

"I'd rather it wasn't there but, at the moment, everything is going really well.

"He's a difficult horse to get right on the day, but when he is I am hoping he is nearly unbeatable.

"Haydock and Kempton, apart from going a different way round, are very similar. They are flat tracks and fast tracks and we got within a whisker of beating Kauto Star last year (at Haydock). If anybody believes me that we haven't got a problem going right-handed, then he must have a very good chance. Help yourself to 8-1, with a run, just in case we have a setback. That is incredible value, I think."

Meanwhile, 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. Initial reports suggested he would be out of action for a year, but the jockey has always endeavoured 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.