- bay gelding by Callernish out of Princess Menelek (by Menelek)
- Races: 32 Wins:16
- Foaled: 21 Feb 1989
- Trainer: R Hurley
- Owner: Lisselan Farms
Imperial Call -More Facts and Figures
On the 14th March 1996, Imperial Call lifted National Hunt Racing’s blue ribband, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Imperial Call, the 9-2 second favourite, beat Rough Quest, a 12-1 shot, by four lengths with Couldnt Be Better, who spent the winter in the warmth of Pisa, 19 lengths away in third. One Man, the 11-8 favourite, travelled like the winner for much of the race, but faded dramatically two fences from home and trailed in a distant sixth, beating only one other runner to complete the gruelling 31/4 miles.
Down the years, Cheltenham has witnessed some emotional moments, but few can have matched the chaotic scenes yesterday as an impromptu rendering of The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee, the anthem of Co Cork, was delivered by supporters of racing’s new chasing champion. A large Imperial Call banner appeared from nowhere and was unfurled while Conor O’Dwyer, the winning jockey, was hoisted shoulder-high in the winner’s enclosure.
“The proudest moment of my life,” Sutherland exclaimed, as he was taken to see Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the royal box for the Gold Cup presentation and there have been a few special moments in the colourful life and times of this popular figure.
Read on to find out more about Imperial Call
Sutherland, who modestly describes himself as a horseman, felt when Imperial Call was only five that he had the stamp of a Gold Cup winner and, as the 11 runners paraded before the race yesterday, his confidence never wavered.
`He did it very stylishly, didn’t he?” Sutherland said. “He put them in their place today and he’s improving every day. I haven’t been to Cheltenham for 30 years and this is the only way to come back,” he said.
Remarkably, the race went precisely according to the plan devised by trainer and jockey. “I told Conor to hang on to him for the first mile, take him a bit wide to get a bit of daylight don’t forget he’s only a second-season chaser and to get him jumping and enjoying himeslf, bowling along in touch with the leader. For once, it all panned out as we hoped. In the last mile, I must confess I had a feeling of inevitability about it. I just knew he was going to win.”
Towed along by Dublin Flyer, Young Hustler and Couldnt Be Better for the first circuit and a half, Imperial Call first led six fences from home, but was joined after three out by One Man, who appeared to be travelling ominously well under Richard Dunwoody. However, as the pair charged towards the second last, the favourite’s doubtful stamina gave way and his challenged petered out in a matter of strides.
Suddenly, the patiently-ridden Rough Quest loomed as a real threat and, for a brief moment approaching the final obstacle, looked as though he might swamp the leader. However, Imperial Call surged away from his rival up the demanding Cheltenham hill and it will be no surprise if he returns to win again next year.
Dunwoody said: “About 20 strides off the second last, One Man got very, very tired. It happened very quickly. He might not have stayed and if I hadn’t been third, I probably would have pulled him up at the last.”