Don Cossack out to cement Gold Cup claims at Thurles
Don Cossack faces just three opponents as he has his prep for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in the Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.
Gordon Elliott used the Grade Two event as his stepping stone to the Festival last year and he was just getting the better of an argument with Champagne Fever when that one came down.
Don Cossack has won three Grade Ones since finishing third in the Ryanair last March but tipped up in the King George when coming to challenge and the trainer is keen to give him a confidence boost before at crack at the biggest prize in racing.
Elliott said: "I didn't want to go to the Irish Hennessy, I thought it might be a bit too close (to Cheltenham) and have too a hard race, we'll let him take his chance at Thurles, hopefully he'll have a clear round and run a good race and that will be it for the Gold Cup.
"Looking at the re-run of the King George, I don't think he got the best run through the race, he never got into a rhythm, he was in, he was out, he was up, he was down - he never got into a rhythm.
"At the time he fell I thought Ruby (Walsh) looked to be going very well (on Vautour), what happened after happened, I can't say whether we would have won or not, but I don't think we would have been far away as the one thing I know my horse does is he gallops to the line.
"But thankfully he is OK and there'll be plenty more days, please God."
Don Cossack has met with defeat on both his visits to Cheltenham - but Elliott does not buy into the theory Prestbury Park does not suit him.
He told Racing UK: "To be fair he went to Cheltenham the first year (in the RSA) and he was jumping and travelling, he just took off too long at one of the fences and fell.
"He was travelling very smoothly at the time. What would have happened that day I don't know, but I know in the Ryanair everything went brilliantly until the last open ditch and he made a mistake, and he got sandwiched I think between the third-last and second-last fence.
"I wouldn't say he didn't handle the track, he ran a very good race in the Ryanair to finish where he finished from what happened.
"I think he'll handle the track if we just get a bit of luck and a clear passage, the same as anywhere."
Don Cossack is currently second-favourite for the blue riband, behind last year's runner-up Djakadam, and Elliott slightly rues the fact his charge is around in such a top-class era.
"I'd loved to have been training him three or four years ago, the Gold Cup looks as hot this year as it has in a long time. But we've got the highest-rated horse in England and Ireland last year and I think he is a better horse come that time of the year - I don't think he is a real mud-lover, so I hope it dries up come Cheltenham time," said Elliott.
"He doesn't need quick ground, but the better the ground the better chance we have."
Taking him on at Thurles is Noel Meade's Wounded Warrior, third in the RSA last March and second to Valseur Lido at Punchestown.
"We have just had a few muscle problems with Wounded Warrior that have held him up," said Meade.
"He is in the Gold Cup and we will see how things go. He is a huge horse that I have always liked a lot and I am hoping he will improve. Hopefully, we can keep him right and have a good end to the season."
Robbie Hennessy's veteran Rubi Light and Jerry Cosgrave's Mount Colah complete the field.