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 and Petit Mouchoir clear the last fence to win the Ryanair Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie
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 jockeyRuby WalshBarry Geraghty
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.
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.