With two wins and a runner-up finish to his name at Cheltenham Racecourse, it would be fair to describe Imperial Alcazar as something of a course specialist.
And that will please both the trainer Fergal O’Brien and owners Imperial Racing Partnership immensely, given that Prestbury Park plays host to some of the National Hunt’s most prestigious renewals.
The syndicate will get an early chance to cash in this season in November’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, a 2m 4f chase for which Imperial Alcazar is the 8/1 favorite for those keen to bet on horse racing. Celebre D’Allen and French Dynamite are also considered the next best in the betting market.
Those who make horse racing predictions tend to use correlating performances to guide their bets, and those in the know will be aware of how useful the Paddy Power Gold Cup has been in marking the card of punters in years gone by.
Imperial Commander, ironically owned by the same syndicate as Imperial Alcazar, went on to win the Ryanair Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup at Prestbury Park after triumphing in the 2008 edition of this Grade 3 renewal. While Al Ferof – the 2012 Paddy Power Gold Cup victor – also enjoyed success at the Cheltenham Festival in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Imperial Commander – Gold Cup 19th March 2010 – 182 rating
He produced a performance even better than Kauto Star’s in winning this race the year before, beating an even stronger Denman than that horse had for all he didn’t do it by quite so far.pic.twitter.com/WQJ3hsuuTa
— Timeform (@Timeform) March 27, 2020
And then there’s Exotic Dancer. Who knows what the 2006 Paddy Power Gold Cup victor would have achieved had he not consistently locked horns with the unstoppable Kauto Star, who beat him in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and King George VI Chase.
So the omens are pretty strong for Imperial Alcazar, who will head to Cheltenham in November with an excellent CV already to his name in the Cotswolds.
The eight-year-old has won as both a hurdler and a chaser at Cheltenham, and it was the latter that most caught everyone’s eye back in January.
He streaked ten lengths clear of Beakstown in second, despite being the top weight in the field by a considerable margin. This victory – aided by another stellar ride from jockey Paddy Brennan – really hinted at the possibility of Imperial Alcazar as a Cheltenham Festival winner.
Imperial Alcazar after galloping in Lambourn😍 pic.twitter.com/F5OWb9weHo
— Fern O’Brien (@fernobrien_) February 27, 2022
O’Brien packed off the rangy chaser to March’s showpiece occasion at the Prestbury Park track, and Imperial Alcazar was installed as the 7/2 favourite for a handicap chase on the Thursday of the Festival.
Yet again treated harshly by the handicapper, the horse stomped around the soft track despite carrying many pounds more than his nearest rivals, and it was a slightly below-par jumping effort that condemned Imperial Alcazar to second place behind Coole Cody.
But to go full circle, it was interesting to note that day that Imperial Alcazar carried ten pounds in weight more than potential Paddy Power Gold Cup opponents Celebre D’Allen and The Glancing Queen. Yet he finished around four-and-a-half and eleven lengths clear of that duo, respectively.
So there’s plenty of legs in a punt on Imperial Alcazar at the November date, and if he can prevail there then he will surely become an attractive proposition indeed for the Cheltenham Festival the following March.