Racing

Cooper and Cossack bring home coveted Gold Cup for Elliott

 Bryan Cooper celebrates on board Don Cossack after winnig the Gold Cup on the last day of the Cheltenham Festival yesterday      
Ashley Iveson

GORDON Elliott has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds Don Cossack and that long-term faith was gloriously justified in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

After seeing his imposing gelding claim his third bumper from four starts at Fairyhouse, the Co Meath maestro proclaimed: “If I was a horse I’d sleep with him, he’s that good.”

Almost four years on, the quietly-spoken Meath man stood in the hallowed Prestbury Park winner’s enclosure in a state of disbelief and with a tear in his eye after seeing Don Cossack claim the most prestigious prize in National Hunt racing.

Already a four-time Grade One winner, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old was a well-supported 9-4 favourite in the hands of Bryan Cooper.

Positioned close to the pace throughout, Don Cossack fenced fluently and travelled beautifully to remain in contention with half a mile to run.

Last year’s runner-up Djakadam moved through the three-and-a-quarter-mile feature with similar dash, but he had no answer when Don Cossack kicked in the turbo from the home turn and he devoured the final two fences to seal a four-and-a-half-length success.

A clearly emotional Elliott said: “I’m just so happy for all of us – all the staff in the yard, and my mother and father. I can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable. To be honest, I need to look at the race again – I was so nervous all the way around. That was something special.

“Everyone at Gigginstown have supported me from the start.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my life. It means so much to me to win a Gold Cup, it’s brilliant.”

Elliott sent out Silver Birch to win the Grand National in 2007 and added: “To win the Grand National, I was young and maybe didn’t appreciate it – to win the Gold Cup is just unbelievable.”

It was a second Gold Cup triumph for Gigginstown, a decade on from War Of Attrition’s triumph in the great race.

Ryanair and Gigginstown supremo Michael O’Leary said: “I’m so emotional. Bryan gave him a peach of a ride. We’ve been second all week and I’m so delighted for Gordon as it’s been a tough week for him after losing No More Heroes.

“It’s 10 years since War Of Attrition won the Gold Cup. What a way to celebrate the anniversary.

Three years on from hitting the headlines with a Festival hat-trick, Cooper is now firmly established among the sport’s elite jockeys, despite being at the tender age of just 23.

“I can’t believe that’s happened – it was over so quick,” he said.

“I couldn’t believe I was going that easy turning for home. He went to go round again at the bend after the last. He galloped the whole way to the line.

“We’ve put all the doubters away now –  they all said he wasn’t good enough. All the people who said I didn’t get on with him – we’ve put them in their place today.

“Don Cossack has beaten what’s been put in front of him and that’s all he can do. He’s the best I’ve ever sat on.”

Cooper spent many weeks deliberating whether to ride Don Cossack or Don Poli, who finished third.

He added: “It wasn’t an easy decision to make and I think people backed Don Poli more as they thought I’d chosen the wrong one.

“We proved it though – he (Don Cossack) was the best horse and the highest-rated horse for a reason.”

The wait for a first Gold Cup goes on for the all-conquering Willie Mullins, trainer of both Djakadam and Don Poli.

He said: “We have no excuses. Djakadam had every chance from the fifth-last home and jumped as clearly as he could. He was beaten by a better horse so congratulations to all the connections of the winner.

“Gigginstown invest a huge amount in Irish sport, so I’m delighted for them and for Gordon and also for Bryan Cooper.

The home team was headed by Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card.

After winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton, the 10-year-old was in line for a £1million bonus if he could complete the hat-trick and he was still in with a chance when falling three fences from the finish.

Tizzard said: “We just thank God that Cue Card got up after the fall.

“That is championship racing, isn’t it? Two seconds before, you think ‘here we go’ – he was slightly in front.

“He just put down and hit the top of the fence and over he went.

“He is absolutely fine and he’s walked away as though he hasn’t got a care in the world.

“He was running a brilliant race and we’re chuffed to have had him for the last six years. 

“There are worse things that have happened.”

Jockey Paddy Brennan: “We had it in the bag and I’m gutted.”

Carlingford Lough was fourth to round off an Irish-dominated finish.
The Rebecca Curtis-trained pair of Irish Cavalier and O’Faolains Boy passed the post fifth and seventh respectively.

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