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'Imperial still good as Gold'

Many a dream has started out the same -- a group of friends talking about getting into racehorse ownership with the aim of having a runner at the Cheltenham Festival.

A few might even laugh at the prospect of possibly having a horse good enough to contest one of the championship races, or even the biggest of them all, the Gold Cup.

That's just how it started for the Our Friends In The North partnership a few years ago but the difference is their horse, Imperial Commander, actually won last year's renewal.

Hugh Doubtfire, who runs Corporate Entertainment Company, a firm which provides corporate hospitality at major sporting events, is one of the lucky owners.

"I own a quarter, as do Ian and Jill Robinson, with the other half owned by four different people," said Doubtfire.

"The nice thing about it is it is a family thing.

"All our children come along, we're all racing people and I haven't missed a day at Cheltenham in 30 years.

"We set out with a dream of just having a runner at the Festival so it's pretty amazing."

Doubtfire is keen to praise the man whom he believes deserves most of the credit.

"It's all down to Kevin Ross, the bloodstock agent. When myself and Ian got together with Kevin he found us Bobby Dazzler," he said.

"He won three hurdle races and looked good, but severed an artery in his box and had to be put down.

"With the insurance money we asked Kevin to find us another and, being the genius he is, he came up with Imperial Commander."

Just like their ill-fated first horse, the partnership sent Imperial Commander to Gloucestershire to be trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies.

"He won his first bumper for Nigel at Cheltenham and then Nigel, as he does, threw him in at the deep end back at Cheltenham for his first hurdle start," Doubtfire continued.

"He finished fourth and initially we were disappointed. It turned out he finished behind three Festival winners (Massini's Maguire, Wichita Lineman and Juveigneur)."

Since then, the horse has gone from strength to strength, culminating in last year's Gold Cup victory. As a fresh horse at Cheltenham, he ground his rivals into submission with the past three winners, Kauto Star (twice) and Denman, chasing shadows.

With Kauto Star and Denman having somewhat lost their auras of invincibility, Doubtfire believes there is more to fear this year from the younger generation.

"I'm more worried about the younger horses this year than Kauto and Denman -- probably foolishly," he said.