Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander has been ruled out of this year’s race, due to a lung infection.

The 2010 Gold Cup winner, trained by Gloucestershire-based Nigel Twiston-Davies, was aiming to become the first 12-year-old to win the race since What A Myth in 1969.

Along with Long Run, he would have also been challenging to become the only horse apart from Kauto Star to regain the Gold Cup crown having lost it.

But after working poorly on Tuesday (5 March) he was examined by a vet and diagnosed with a lung infection.

Imperial Commander won in the race in 2010, ahead of Denman, in the year that Kauto Star fell. The yard at the time said Imperial Commander was very much “the forgotten” horse in the race.

Nigel told H&H on Sunday, before the lung infection was diagnosed, that Imperial Commander was “in as good a form as he’s been” and that the team were hoping for a good run.

His last performance was impressive — he finished second by half a length to Cape Tribulation in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham in January after 680 days away from the track due to injury.

But Twiston-Davies says the horse is now being aimed at the Grand National, if he has recovered.

And in another blow for the Twiston-Davies yard, two other Festival hopefuls — Astracad and The Cockney Mackem — are also out because of a virus.

The New One, who is second favourite for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday is reported to be fine.