Don retired as Gold Cup gets shake-up
Owner Michael O'Leary has promised Don Cossack a "well-pampered retirement" after it was announced yesterday that last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup hero has been retired.
The news came just two hours before the entries for this year's race - on March 17 - were formally announced.
Not seen since lifting the blue riband last March, trainer Gordon Elliott had been happy with the 10-year-old's recovery and only recently said he was on course to return to action next month before defending his crown.
However, the horse's connections always insisted he would be retired if he met with any further complications and their worst fears were realised after Don Cossack - winner of the 2015 JNWine.com Champion Chase at the Down Royal Festival - developed heat in one of his legs.
Ryanair boss O'Leary said: "Gordon left no stone unturned to help Don Cossack return to defend his title but alas it is not to be.
"At the age of 10 we are all agreed that the best thing for 'The Don' is a well-earned and very well-pampered retirement in Gigginstown."
The news comes just days after 2015 winner Coneygree was ruled out of the race as he continues to recover from a setback.
Elliott still has four possible contenders in Don Poli, Empire Of Dirt, Outlander and Roi Des Francs.
Ante-post favourite Thistlecrack, odds-on in most places, is one of five possible runners for trainer Colin Tizzard amongst a total of 39 entries.
Cue Card, Native River, Alary and Theatre Guide also feature for the Dorset handler, who can be backed at just 16-1 to saddle the first three home in the race.
Henry de Bromhead has three contenders in Champagne West, Sub Lieutenant and Valseur Lido - triumphant in the JNWine.com Champion Chase in November - with Jonjo O'Neill also triple-handed at this stage with Minella Rocco, More Of That and Taquin Du Seuil.
Meanwhile, Staying is the name of the game at Catterick and Doing Fine can prove the most determined in the North Yorkshire Grand National Handicap Chase today.
CATTERICK: 12.50 Giveaway Glance, 1.20 Impulsive Star, 1.50 A Little Magic, 2.20 Top Tug, 2.50 DOING FINE (NAP), 3.20 Forty Crown, 3.50 Italian Riviera.
CHELMSFORD: 5.50 Medicean El Diablo, 6.25 Tailor's Row, 7.00 Exceeding Power, 7.30 Tasty Ginger, 8.00 Sober Up, 8.30 Diamond Indulgence.
LEICESTER: 12.35 Fingers Crossed, 1.05 Un Prophete, 1.35 Smart Catch, 2.10 Ten Sixty, 2.40 Speed Demon, 3.10 Some Finish, 3.40 Top Ville Ben.
NEWCASTLE: 2.00 September Issue, 2.30 Codeshare, 3.00 Wrap Star, 3.30 Natural Scenery, 4.00 Dance Dan Dan, 4.30 Nimr, 5.00 Justice Good.
DOUBLE: Doing Fine and Natural Scenery.