As the national hunt season, is nearing it’s curtain call.
Our columnist Jonny Lennon has reminisced an article about the horse, who made him fall in love with horse racing.
Some people have pet cats, other have dogs. Some have pet hamsters, goldfish and some choose to keep a pet snake or Tarantula. Me though, I was never one for having pets. I didn’t like the idea of getting attached to an animal. Whilst I always enjoyed watching Lions and Gorillas and what not in a David Attenborough wildlife documentary, throwing a stick and asking a dog to fetch it was never that appealing to me. My auntie had a dog when I was younger, a black Labrador called Sam — I did grow attached to him as a child, when he sadly passed away I suppose that hurt. Maybe I didn’t like the idea of becoming emotionally attached to animal, and eventually lose him? Who knows!
Unfortunately, or not, I have become attached to animals now.
When I started drinking in my local pub I became familiar with the sport of horse racing. I grew to like the sport and I enjoyed the occasional couple of bets after a hard week work, studying the form became common practice and the buzz off getting a winner left the banter flying in the bar amongst the other punters. I became attached to the sport, but not an actual racehorse, or, so I thought.
Step forward Imperial Commander!
I remember this horse appearing in the betting one day, and as I’m a Star Wars fan this was the greatest name a racehorse ever had, but, it was a beautiful looking horse as well, that would have been around 2007, and although an odd in favourite that day, he won comfortably and as a result, the love in began.
2008 came along and so did Paddy Brennan, taking over from usually jockey Tony Evans and Nigel Twiston -Davies sent the Commander chasing — with thunderous results! Brennan’s first ride on this potential superstar came in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Cheltenham, Victory ensued as Imperial Commander stayed on strongly to win by around 3 lengths, the following year he went back to the festival and won the Ryanair Chase, beating Voy Por Ustedes by 2 length, both wins came at odds of around 6/1 as well so from a punting point of view it was brilliant but for me, a racing hero was born!
Onto 2010, The Grandest stage of them all, the Cheltenham Gold Cup — and the unthinkable was about to happen! Racing against arguably two of the greatest horses seen in Denman and if course, Kauto Star (who had beaten IC twice previously) – Imperial Commander led 2 furlongs out but stayed on magnificently, going away in fact, to pull off an upset (to some but, not me) and take the Gold Cup. The highlight of a glimmering career!
Injury ruined his chances of keeping his crown the following the year, and he was not seen for some time, personally I felt he would have been retired at that stage. He came back to win the Argento in 2013, an emotional day for me and then of course he had a spin over the National track at Aintree, as top weight though it was all too much for the then 12-year-old, and he was pulled up, bringing an end to a wonderful career.
As I said, I was never interested in having feelings for an animal. It’s just an animal, isn’t it? Well, no it’s not just an animal. Sure, enough as people love their pet cats and dogs, I love horse racing and Imperial Commander, whilst not my own pet, became my first love in horse racing.
A commander by name and a commander by nature. You brought many happy days to myself as a punter and, merely as a fan and for that, I salute you!