Another fantastic renewal of the great race with the three most recent winners plus a brilliant young pretender in contention. IMPERIAL COMMANDER arrived in the race under the radar a year ago but put Kauto Star and Denman to the sword and was a very worthy winner. The two Paul Nicholls' superstars have had very light campaigns in preparation for this and must not be written off though it's difficult to see either reversing the form with Nigel Twiston-Davies' star, who can complete a famous double. Forget the statistics that suggest a six-year-old can't win a Gold Cup these days - Long Run was a classy hurdler at three and won a Grade 1 chase in France a year later. He devastated his rivals, including Kauto Star, in the King George and is the only one of the big four with further progress in him. The only blot is his two previous runs on the track ended in defeat though his trainer was probably only just getting to know him. It probably wasn't the greatest Grade 1 run at Leopardstown that Kempes won last month but Willie Mullins has always had faith in him and today's better ground and stiffer test could see him running into a place. Midnight Chase won a handicap here last April from a mark of 123 and though he's on a roll at the track with four successive victories it would take a leap of faith to see him complete a five-timer.
Albertas Run (IRE) 33-1 (11-10) In touch on outside, ridden and outpaced approaching 12th, soon weakened and pulled up, in a race won by Long Run (11-10) at Kempton 3m chs G1 (1) gs in Jan, 9 ran.
Carruthers 7-2fav (11-6) Disputed lead, led before 12th, headed approaching 4 out, chased winner until before last, weakened and lost 3rd place flat, 4th of 14, 23l behind Silver By Nature (11-12) at Haydock 3m 4f hcp chs G3 (1) hvy in Feb.
China Rock (IRE) 4-1 (11-10) Prominent, 2nd from 8th, disputed lead from 6 out, led before 3 out, clear 2 out, soon ridden, headed early straight, soon no extra, 4th of 9, 16l behind Kempes (11-10) at Leopardstown 3m chs G1 (1) hvy in Feb.
Denman (IRE) 4-1fav (11-12) Held up well in touch in 5th, chased leading pair 16th, 2nd and challenged next, stayed upsides and every chance until not fluent 2 out, lost 2nd soon after, no extra in 3rd before last, 3rd of 18, 16l behind Diamond Harry (10-0) at Newbury 3m 2f hcp chs Grd 3 (1) gs in Nov.
Imperial Commander (IRE) 10-11fav (11-7) Disputed 2nd, challenged 10th, led 12th, made rest, driven clear 3 out, in command flat, held on near finish, won at Haydock 3m chs G1 (1) gs in Nov beating Tidal Bay (11-7) by 1 1/4l, 7 ran.
Kauto Star (FR) 4-7fav (11-10) Tracked leader to 7th, remained in touch, driven and outpaced after 4 out, 3 lengths down in 2nd and looked held when blundered badly and almost unseated rider 2 out, soon lost place and no extra, 3rd of 9, 19l behind Long Run (11-10) at Kempton 3m chs G1 (1) gs in Jan.
Kempes (IRE) 5-1 (11-10) Held up, 6th 4 out, 5th after next, smooth headway into 2nd after 2 out, led early straight, ridden before last, stayed on well run-in, won at Leopardstown 3m chs G1 (1) hvy in Feb beating Glencove Marina (11-10) by 4 1/2l, 9 ran.
Long Run (FR) 9-2 (11-10) In touch, tracked leader 7th, driven to lead 3 out, ridden clear approaching last, stayed on well, comfortably, won at Kempton 3m chs G1 (1) gs in Jan beating Riverside Theatre (11-10) by 12l, 9 ran.
Midnight Chase 11-4fav (11-3) Led, hit 3 out stumbled on landing and narrowly headed, ralled gamely from last, stayed on strongly flat, driven to lead close home, won at Cheltenham 3m 1f listed hcp chs (1) gd in Dec beating Presenting Forever (10-0) by nk, 16 ran.
Neptune Collonges (FR) 11-2 (11-0) Jumped well, made all and soon clear, not fluent 4 out, clear last, stayed on gamely under pressure flat, unchallenged, won at Cheltenham 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Jan beating Tidal Bay (11-0) by 1 1/4l, 5 ran.
Pandorama (IRE) 7-2fav (11-10) Tracked leaders on inner, 6th halfway, headway into 2nd before 4 out, not fluent 3 out, 3rd at next, travelled best early straight to lead at last, drew clear run-in, won at Leopardstown 3m chs G1 (1) in Dec beating Money Trix (11-10) by 6l, 12 ran.
Tidal Bay (IRE) 5-2 (11-0) Tracked leading trio, blundered 14th, stayed on from 3 out, went 2nd between last, kept on flat and closed on winner towards finish, never able to challenge, 2nd of 5, 1 1/4l behind Neptune Collonges (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Jan.
Weird Al (IRE) 6-1 (10-0) Towards rear, headway approaching 17th, never reached leaders and no impression from next, tailed off, mistake last, 8th of 18, 43l behind Diamond Harry (10-0) at Newbury 3m 2f hcp chs Grd 3 (1) gs in Nov.
What A Friend 4-5fav (11-10) Held up in 4th, tracked leading pair 11th, mistake next, driven 3 out, soon ridden, went 2nd next, switched right flat, rallied towards finish, just held, 2nd of 5, hd behind Noland (11-0) at Newbury 3m chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb.