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Cooper strikes for Gigginstown

Lieutenant Colonel confirmed himself a smart prospect with victory in the New Year Maiden Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Running in the Gigginstown House Stud colours and ridden by Bryan Cooper, who has been strongly linked with the number one role in the maroon and white silks after Davy Russell's retainer came to an end, the five-year-old was regaining winning ways after being beaten by the potentially top-notch Vautour at Navan last month.

Cooper brought the Dessie Hughes-trained five-year-old to challenge To Choose for the lead on the turn for home.

Jumping the second-last just in front, Lieutenant Colonel pulled clear and put in a fine leap at the final flight to go and win by 14 lengths.

It was a particularly notable success for trainer Dessie Hughes, who saddled his first winner in this race in 1980 in the shape of Church Island, which he rode himself.

Hughes said of the even-money favourite: "He improved from Navan and looks a decent horse.

"He looks a stayer and is a great jumper. The majority of Gigginstown horses jump exceptionally well.

"He should be able to compete in a few of the novices after that, and the horse that beat him in Navan must be a fair horse."

Cooper is rated a 1-5 chance by Paddy Power to take over the top spot at Gigginstown, but declined to comment on speculation when asked before racing.

Asked about the prospect of possibly losing Cooper as his stable jockey, Hughes said: "It would be a good job for him, but a big blow for me. It's taken me four years to make him, he's matured now and he's at his best.

"Hopefully he would still ride for me as much as he can."

Cooper and Hughes completed a double when Off The Charts, owned by JP McManus, took the Special Offers In Bobbyjo Bistro Handicap Hurdle, the 4-1 co-favourite getting the better of Day Dream Boy by a length and a half.

"It's good that he's won anyway. He went up 4lb the last day for finishing second," said Hughes.

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