By Simon Jackson.
Cheltenham Gold Cup fancy Don Cossack showed no ill effects from his fall in the William Hill King George VI Chase when winning a Grade 2 race in Ireland on Thursday.
The multiple Grade 1 winner was mounting a late challenge when he fell at the penultimate fence at Kempton on Boxing Day and appeared to have put the mishap behind him when producing a solid performance to win the Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.
The nine-year-old raced close to the pace and was disputing the lead after the eighth fence, but was headed and received a reminder from jockey Bryan Cooper before asserting to score by nine and a half lengths.
He is priced at around 5-1 with most firms for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. He can also be backed 4-1 ‘non-runner no bet’ with Paddy Power who are offering punters money back on the Gold Cup and other feature races at Cheltenham.
Paddy Power said: “Don Cossack has done what was expected with at least 20lb in hand on today’s rivals, but the great thing is connections can now go to Cheltenham safe in the knowledge that there are no lingering effects from his unfortunate fall in the King George.”
The Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack is one of 18 Irish-trained horses in this year’s Gold Cup, which has attracted 32 entries.
Don Cossack’s stablemates No More Heroes and Roi Du Mee are among the Irish entries that numerically are headed by horses trained by Willie Mullins whose eight possible runners include Gold Cup favourite Djakadam, and King George runner-up Vautour.
Noel Meade is doubly represented by Road To Riches, who was third in last year’s Gold Cup behind Coneygree and Djakadam, and Wounded Warrior.
“I could not be happier with Road To Riches,” Meade said. “We had a bit of a blood disorder and snotty nose at Christmas, but all is well now and the plan is to go to Leopardstown for the Irish Gold Cup.
“I felt last year [in the Cheltenham Gold Cup] that we tried to put it up to Coneygree and then Djakadam came and got us as we faded on the run-in. I think Djakadam will improve because he was a young horse last year.
“I would be really happy if I could get Road To Riches to Cheltenham in the same condition as last year. He might even improve a little bit as well because he will be a fresher horse this time around. He’d had a long season going there last year.
“I’m not sure ground is a big factor with Road To Riches. He handles soft ground and goes on good ground. You would say the ground was a help to Coneygree last year and we know Djakadam goes very well on soft ground. Those are factors that might make a difference, but we will see.
“We have just had a few muscle problems with Wounded Warrior that have held him up. He will be entered in the Grand National, Irish National and plenty of other long distance races because he wants a trip.
“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.”
Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.