Elliott retains faith in Don Cossack despite the hype bubble bursting
It’s almost three weeks since the hype bubble surrounding Don Cossack was unceremoniously pricked at Navan and with no explanation emerging for a sub-par performance, trainer Gordon Elliott is putting the experience down to a simple “off-day” for the Michael O’Leary-owned star.
Elliott plans to bring Don Cossack back to action towards the end of this month although no firm running arrangements have been drawn up for the triple bumper winner who looked to have the jumping world at his feet before his second hurdles start in the Grade One Navan Hurdle.
The German-bred went into the two-and-a-half-mile contest as the ante-post favourite for all-three Grade One novice events at the Cheltenham Festival and emerged from it lucky to be in one piece having stumbled and fallen after the last flight.
At the time he was fighting a hopeless cause chasing the exciting French import Pont Alexandre and there was widespread disappointment in the performance of the odds-on favourite. He is currently a best-priced 16 to 1 shot for the Neptune at Cheltenham and is 20 to 1 for the two-mile Supreme.
Elliott, however, retains his faith in Don Cossack who he memorably described as an “aeroplane” after his third bumper victory and is resolutely looking ahead with the Gigginstown Stud runner.
“We’re planning to run him in three to four weeks time but we’re not sure where he’s going to go yet. It will be day by day with him,” he said yesterday.
“Nothing physical emerged after Navan. He just had an off-day. He was finished going to the second hurdle. And he was lucky at the end because he got a bad fall.”
It’s been a tough time for last season’s leading bumper stars with Champagne Fever an expensive long-odds-on flop in the Slaney Hurdle at Naas on Sunday. He was subsequently found to have a respiratory infection but it is Champagne Fever’s stable-companion, Pont Alexandre, who currently tops the Neptune betting.
There was less positive long-term news about another Gigginstown star yesterday with confirmation that the dual Grade One winner, Last Instalment, will miss the Gold Cup and the rest of this season.
The eight-year-old emerged injured from last year’s Dr PJ Moriarty victory and trainer Philip Fenton has reported he has injured another front leg and will need plenty of time off to recover.
Gordon Elliott’s Ladbroke winner, Cause Of Causes, is a 14 to 1 co-favourite for Cheltenham’s County Hurdle with William Hill and that two-mile event is a more likely target at this stage for the horse rather than the Coral Cup.
“The plan is to give him one run before Cheltenham. He’ll get a few entries, including the Betfair Hurdle. It’s not certain but I would say the two-mile race is more likely for him at the festival,” the trainer said.
Elliott has left in his Leopardstown Christmas winner, Flaxen Flare, among the half-dozen entries remaining in Sunday’s Grade Three Juvenile Hurdle at Punchestown after yesterday’s forfeit stage. Flaxen Flare was impressive in his first start over flights when beating both Ibsen and Diplomat and could be joined at the weekend by his stable mate Fisher who ran behind Blood Cotil in a Grade Two over the holidays.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins has left in the winning pair, Diakali and Dogora who impressed when making a successful debut in Ireland at Limerick over Christmas.
Last year’s renewal of the Grade Three weekend feature saw the 1 to 4 favourite, Ut De Sivola, emerge on top but only after the subsequent dual-Grade One winner, Hisaabaat, made a crucial mistake at the last flight. Ground conditions at Punchestown were officially “soft to heavy” yesterday.
Joncol had to miss out on Sunday’s Slaney Hurdle due to a foot problem but could take in next week’s Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles en route to trying to regain the Hennessy Gold Cup crown he won in 2010. “He just had a high nail go through his foot, it left a bit of puss and he was slightly lame, but he’s 100 per cent,” said Paul Nolan yesterday.
“We’ll have a think about what we do next. He’ll get an entry in the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles that is about three weeks before the Hennessy. We’ll see how we go between now and then and decide whether to give him a prep in the Kinloch Brae or go straight to Leopardstown,” he added.