Don Cossack looks a class above these


RACING:It could be an eventful day at Navan for Gigginstown Stud's retained jockey, writes BRIAN O'CONNOR

Michael O’Leary and his Gigginstown Stud team will be hoping more than most tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Troytown Chase card at Navan gets a green light and the track passes a 3pm inspection today.

Initial fears that already heavy course conditions would be swamped by overnight rain were easing yesterday with a more optimistic weekend forecast for the area.

“We’re more optimistic. It looks like we might get a break,” said manager Darren Lawlor who confirmed the course as raceable yesterday. “We were told there could be between 5-12 mms in a band of rain on Saturday evening but they’re telling us now it will skirt by us. We’ll be disappointed if it goes against us.”

The ever-increasing strength of the Gigginstown team is emphasised by the make-up of tomorrow’s card where they run four in the Troytown, unveil the hugely exciting bumper star Don Cossack for his jumping debut in a maiden hurdle, and also hold leading chances in three other races.  Only in the handicap hurdle and the mares bumper, hardly races that appeal most to Michael O’Leary, will the Ryanair boss’s maroon colours not figure.

It adds up to a veritable feast for champion jockey Davy Russell but also something of a headache as he has to make a choice from a number of fancied horses, including in the Grade Two Monksfield Hurdle.

By comparison the two-mile maiden hurdle is straight-forward as little else but a convincing victory for Don Cossack will represent a massive let-down for most everyone.

The triple bumper-winning five-year-old is already an 8 to 1 favourite for the Supreme at Cheltenham in March despite trainer Gordon Elliott’s view that the longer events, the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett, may be more suitable for him.

And even allowing for that, Elliott believes the horse he memorably described as an “aeroplane” last season won’t be seen to maximum effect until he faces fences.

The scale of Don Cossack’s reputation is such that potentially high-class hurdlers like Sizing Gold and Ally Cascade look destined for purely supporting roles this weekend.

Elliott runs Romanesco in the €80,000 Troytown, and also the topweight Tharawaat, who is among an O’Leary quartet that Russell had the headache of choosing between. That he has plumped for the novice Tofino Bay looks significant. This will be just a third start over fences for Tofino Bay who won his first here, and then ran second to Baily Green at Cork over two and a half miles.

Only in the dying stages did the lightly-raced nine-year-old ever shape as a possible winner that day and although this will be his first start at three miles since his point-to-point days in 2008, that Cork run suggested stamina may well be his strongpoint.

A 134 rating doesn’t look overly harsh for his handicap debut and Tofino Bay could wind up something of a blot despite the presence in the field of the Kerry National winner, Faltering Fullback, and the locally-trained Orpheus Valley.

Russell has chosen Bonisland over Wednesday’s winner Shrapnel and Rule The World in the Grade Two, banking no doubt on significant improvement from the big four-year-old from his Down Royal win earlier in the month.

It might come back to bite him, though, as Rule The World looked understandably green and raw in a Grade Three over three miles at Cork last time and still only came up a head short of Our Vinnie.

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