Imperial Cup: Favourite Iceo wins at Sandown for Paul Nicholls
Iceo was second on his handicap debut at Sandown in January, again ridden by Harry Cobden
Iceo hit the front at the final hurdle before claiming an impressive Imperial Cup win at Sandown as 5-1 favourite.
Knickerbockerglory, a 25-1 shot, led after clearing the penultimate jump but, despite heavy going, Harry Cobden led Iceo into the lead before the last.
The Paul Nicholls horse then eased clear to win by almost four lengths, with Playful Saint (13-2) in third.
That rounded off an impressive display by the four-year-old before next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
The French recruit finished second on his handicap debut at Sandown in January, his first appearance in 11 months.
“I probably got there too soon but he’s a keen horse,” Cobden told ITV Racing. “You’ve got to drop him in and weave your way through.
“Fair play to the boss. He said after he finished second last time he came here that he wouldn’t be far away, and he was spot on.”
Iceo continued Nicholls’ hot streak after claiming eight winners in the first nine days of March.
The champion trainer has not saddled a winner at Cheltenham since the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Politologue in 2020, but has high hopes for Hermes Allen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Gold Cup contender Bravemansgame.
Both will be ridden by Cobden, while Iceo is listed for Friday’s County Hurdle, but the jockey added: “I think we’re better off looking after him and treating him as a fairly decent horse for next year.
“With another summer on grass, I think he’ll be a bigger, better, stronger horse next season.”
Cobden does feel he can claim a place aboard Greaneteen in Wednesday’s Champion Chase though.
“He’s going there in really good form,” he said. “I’m not saying he’s good enough to win but if he puts in a career best, he won’t be far away.”