Bryan Cooper makes comeback from fractured pelvis

Cooper hoping Identity Thief will earn a Cheltenham place in Sunday’s Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan

Bryan Cooper returns to action with eight weekend rides which the Gold Cup winning rider hopes will begin a successful run-in to the Cheltenham festival in just over three weeks' time.

Gigginstown Stud’s number one pilot is a 14-1 third favourite to be crowned leading rider at the festival, although an injury plagued season means Cooper is taking nothing for granted.

The Kerryman fractured his pelvis in a fall at Punchestown on New Year's Eve, and has endured watching some of Michael O'Leary's top stars win in his absence, most notably Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

“I’ve missed some big races and good rides on good horses, and it has been frustrating. But things could be worse, and the way I looked at it was they were there for when I come back.”


Cooper secured a memorable Gold Cup victory on Don Cossack at the festival a year ago, and looks to have a prime chance of landing Cheltenham's other top championship prize, the Champion Hurdle, on the progressive Petit Mouchoir.

"He's been doing everything right in Ireland, and looks the best of what we have going over there for that race. Hopefully he and I get there in one piece, and with a fighting chance," said Cooper.

Top jockey

The 24-year-old has only

Ruby Walsh


Barry Geraghty

ahead of him in the betting to be the top jockey at Cheltenham, and he is hoping Identity Thief will be able to put his own stop-start season behind him and earn an Arkle place in Sunday’s Grade 3 Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan.

However, before that Cooper will have four rides at Gowran on Saturday, and although the 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki looks to dominate the Red Mills Trial, Cooper gives his mount Tombstone a “fighting chance” against him.

Tombstone was less than three lengths off Jezki when both made their return to action at Navan recently. On the book the Gigginstown’s runner certainly looks to hold better claims than the topweight Rashaan.

However, Jezki has been well backed for the Stayers Hurdle and still holds a Champion Hurdle entry: if they are to be realistic aims then the eight-time Grade 1 winner should be up to winning this.

The Grade 2 Trial Chase looks a good opportunity for October's course and distance winner Ballycasey, and the Willie Mullins team also unveils a couple of intriguingly bred horses at Gowran.

Half sister

Dandy Mag, a half brother to Vroum Vroum Mag, brings some French experience to a maiden hurdle, while the Mullins’ bumper newcomer Blixt is a half sister to no less than Hurricane Fly.

Ruby Walsh has picked Haymount from Mullins’s two runners in Sunday’s Grade 2 Ten Up Novice Chase. Haymount needs to put a poor run behind Anibale Fly at Naas behind him, but he is reunited with Walsh and his Beginners Chase winning form still looks very good.

Sutton Place has looked a horse of real potential throughout his career and made short work of Supasundae in a Naas Grade 3 last time.

Gordon Elliott's star can maintain his progress in the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle, while the local trainer could enjoy another prime Navan afternoon with Broken Soul, Poli Roi and perhaps Rightdownthemilddle on testing ground in a handicap hurdle.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column