BRYAN COOPER, the main rider for owners Gigginstown House Stud, has revealed that he will ride Don Cossack rather than Don Poli in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday.
Cooper revealed his decision to Channel 4 after completing a final piece of work aboard the Gordon Elliott-trained gelding, who had assumed clear favouritism for the Gold Cup after Vautour’s shock switch to the Ryanair Chase.
“The ground’s plenty dry enough, he’s the highest-rated horse in training, that’s helped me make the decision and I won’t be changing my mind now,” said Cooper.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, I wouldn’t have waited this long if it was,” he added. “If you get it wrong you’d be kicking yourself for six months, but Gordon has him in top shape and now we go out to prove all the doubters wrong who say he doesn’t handle Cheltenham.”
Asked to elaborate on how Don Cossack is to be ridden, Cooper said: “He has a lot of class and a huge stride, he covers a lot of ground, especially on nice ground. He’s a different horse on nice ground and when he gets jumping he’s hard to lay up with. Hopefully he’ll be in that sort of form on Friday.”
Speaking immediately afterwards, trainer Gordon Elliott said: “I’m delighted Bryan’s going to ride him. It’s a big help, he knows the horse well, so the more the ground dries out the more chance he has now.
“He’s in great form and that’s what you want to see when you bring them over here [from Ireland]. He’s eating and drinking; he’s bouncing.”
With the news, the last vestiges of 10-3 about Don Cossack disappeared and he is now a general 3-1 shot for Gold Cup glory on Friday. Don Poli remains 4-1 generally, with StanJames offering 9-2.