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Classy Cossack has the golden touch at Punchestown

By Richard Forristal

Published 29/04/2015

Out in front: Ruby Walsh steers Douvan to victory in Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival
Out in front: Ruby Walsh steers Douvan to victory in Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival

Djakadam and Road To Riches will strive to advertise the Gold Cup form when they clash in a cracking edition of the Bibby Financial Services equivalent at the Punchestown Festival this evening - but Don Cossack can take the spoils.

Neither could ultimately cope with Coneygree in that gruelling Cotswolds encounter. It was certainly an epic spectacle, so it will be fascinating to see if the form translates now.

On His Own, which finished fifth, has since hosed up at Cork, while the sixth Many Clouds has enjoyed Grand National glory. On His Own, Djakadam and Boston Bob are vying to secure Willie Mullins a hat-trick in this €200,000 Grade One.

But Gordon Elliott's Aintree victor Don Cossack, on which Paul Carberry takes over from retired Ulster great AP McCoy, is the one to follow with Bryan Cooper sticking with Down Royal Festival Champion Chase winner Road To Riches.

Don Cossack's only blip in a progressive campaign came when he looked unlucky at Prestbury Park in March, so it would be some statement if he were to replicate his Liverpool display in such elite company.

But Don Cossack appeals as being on an upward curve.

Willie Mullins hailed Douvan "as good as we've ever had" after another scintillating display to win the Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day of the Festival.

After making it three from three for the champion trainer in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, it was little surprise the French import was a prohibitively priced 1-6 to end a tremendous season on a high, with Supreme third, Sizing John, rated his biggest threat.

Mullins won this race with subsequent Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen a year ago, while Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly claimed the third of his 22 top-level victories to date in the 2009 renewal.

The master of Closutton believes Douvan could be the best of the lot, but whether he will remain over hurdles or go chasing next season remains unclear.

Mullins said: "He could be anything. He's way more efficient jumping than Faugheen ever was, or is, and that from a novice is extraordinary, really.

"He's just been like that all season and at home he has answered all our questions. He's an amazing athlete. He also has size and scope as he's almost 17 hands. He's extraordinary.

"We didn't know what he was but we knew he was better than anything else when we put him against the novices. Gail (Carlisle) rides him all the time and every time he came up the gallop he was quicker than anything else.

"I can't wait to get him over a fence but I'll have to chat to connections.

"(Owner) Rich (Ricci) has Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle but it's a nice problem to have."

"He has to be as good as we've ever had. He's not a Hurricane Fly type, he's a chaser.

"We'll put him away now and decide whether he'll stay hurdling or go chasing."

The Mullins team also claimed the BoyleSports Champion Chase with Felix Yonger, Danny Mullins doing the steering.

The trainer said: "Felix Yonger is a good horse. We'll probably put him away now."

Belfast Telegraph

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