Don Cossack back on track in Kinloch Brae at Thurles
Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Don Cossack proved workmanlike in returning to winning ways in the Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.
Gordon Elliott's charge fell last time out in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, but was still sent off the 1-8 favourite to regain the winning thread in a race he claimed 12 months ago.
Rubi Light set the early gallop in the four-runner field, with Bryan Cooper happy to track him through the opening exchanges. However, Cooper had to stoke Don Cossack up four fences from home, giving him a couple of reminders after the third-last.
That seemed to wake him up and with two to jump he appeared to be back in control, sailing clear over the last and galloping on well for what was ultimately a cosy success.
Mount Colah made a bad mistake at the second-last, bumping Rubi Light in the process and allowing Wounded Warrior to come through late for second.
Cooper said: "He got the job done, he's come back in trip, which isn't ideal as he has turned into more of a stayer.
"He won this last year when he probably had a bit more speed, we've been training him to stay so he's come back half a mile too short.
"What I liked is when I jumped the second-last, two or three slaps on the shoulder and he went on.
"There's only one big day, though, and that's March and that's what we're aiming for.
"I'll leave that (the idea of blinkers) to Gordon. He's not ungenuine, he's just a bit lazy."
Elliott revealed Don Cossack will be equipped with cheekpieces at Cheltenham, where the Timico-sponsored Gold Cup remains the target.
He said: "I was worried about the ground as he's a better horse on better ground.
"He worked in cheekpieces the other day and flew in them and while there was no point having them on today, he'll have them on in the Gold Cup.
"Bryan said from the second-last to the line he was only getting going. He was free and exuberant in the early days and while it's not good to look at, the last quarter (of his races) is his best now.
"He's a better horse in the second half of the season and with a bit of better ground and cheekpieces, the Gold Cup is the plan. If he's good enough or not I don't know, but roll on March."
Coral left Don Cossack unchanged at 5-1 second-favourite for the Gold Cup.