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Delightful Don as good as Gold

By Nick Robson

Published 19/03/2016

Star man: Bryan Cooper celebrates his Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph on Don Cossack
Star man: Bryan Cooper celebrates his Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph on Don Cossack

Gordon Elliott has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds Don Cossack and that long-term faith was gloriously justified in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

After seeing his imposing gelding claim his third bumper from four starts at Fairyhouse, the Meath maestro - whose victory helped Ireland to an eventual Festival total of 14, the same tally as the hosts - proclaimed: "If I was a horse I'd sleep with him, he's that good."

Almost four years on, the quietly-spoken trainer stood in the hallowed Prestbury Park winner's enclosure in a state of disbelief and with a tear in his eye after seeing Don Cossack claim the most prestigious prize in National Hunt racing.

Already a four-time Grade One winner, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old was a well-supported 9-4 favourite in the hands of Bryan Cooper, who is in action at Downpatrick's big Ulster National meeting tomorrow.

Positioned close to the pace throughout, Don Cossack fenced fluently and travelled beautifully to remain in contention with half a mile to run.

Last year's runner-up Djakadam moved through the three-and-a-quarter-mile feature with similar dash, but he had no answer when Don Cossack kicked in the turbo from the home turn and he devoured the final two fences to seal a four-and-a-half-length success.

A clearly emotional Elliott said: "I'm just so happy for all of us - all the staff in the yard, and my mother and father.

"I can't believe it. It's unbelievable. To be honest, I need to look at the race again - I was so nervous all the way around. That was something special.

"It means so much to me to win a Gold Cup, it's brilliant."

Elliott sent out Silver Birch to win the Grand National in 2007 and added: "To win the Grand National, I was young and maybe didn't appreciate it - to win the Gold Cup is just unbelievable."

It was a second Gold Cup triumph for Gigginstown, a decade on from War Of Attrition's triumph in the great race.

Ryanair and Gigginstown supremo Michael O'Leary said: "I'm so emotional. Bryan gave him a peach of a ride.

"We've been second all week and I'm so delighted for Gordon as it's been a tough week for him after losing No More Heroes.

"It's 10 years since War Of Attrition won the Gold Cup. What a way to celebrate the anniversary.

"This horse has plenty of gears and I'm just delighted.

"I've found Gold Cups impossible to win, so to do it again is fantastic."

Three years on from hitting the headlines with a Festival hat-trick, Cooper is now firmly established among the sport's elite jockeys, despite being at the tender age of just 23.

"I can't believe that's happened - it was over so quick," he said.

"I couldn't believe I was going that easy turning for home. He went to go round again at the bend after the last. He galloped the whole way to the line. Don Cossack has beaten what's been put in front of him and that's all he can do.

"He's the best I've ever sat on."

Cooper spent many weeks deliberating whether to ride Don Cossack or Don Poli, who finished third.He added: "It wasn't an easy decision to make and I think people backed Don Poli more as they thought I'd chosen the wrong one."

The wait for a first Gold Cup goes on for the all-conquering Willie Mullins, trainer of both Djakadam and Don Poli. He said: "We have no excuses. Djakadam had every chance from the fifth-last home and jumped as clearly as he could.

Carlingford Lough was fourth to round off an Irish-dominated finish.

Belfast Telegraph

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