Don Cossack claims Punchestown Gold Cup to cap brilliant campaign
Killultagh Vic completes Cheltenham-Punchestown double for Willie Mullins
Paul Townend and Killultagh Vic clear the last on the way to winning the Grade One Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Don Cossack looked every inch a future Cheltenham Gold Cup contender as he clinched the final success of a tremendous season in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
Trainer Gordon Elliott was unable to contain his excitement after his charge had won a Fairyhouse bumper almost three years ago, saying “if I was a horse I’d sleep with him, he’s that good!”
It has not all been plain sailing for the giant eight-year-old since, but he has proved his true quality this season, with this his third Grade One and sixth victory overall in a stellar campaign.
Sent off at 5-2 less than three weeks after a career-best effort to win the Melling Chase at Aintree, Don Cossack was given time to find his stride by Paul Carberry before creeping into contention.
He had a couple of significant targets in his sight as he rounded the home turn, with Djakadam and Road To Riches, second and third respectively in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in his sights.
Djakadam briefly threatened to make a race of it between the final two fences, but Don Cossack blew him away from the last and was well on top as he passed the post seven lengths to the good.
Djakadam beat Road To Riches to the runner-up spot once again.
Elliott said: “We were nervous about running him after Aintree, but it’s a Gold Cup and we took our chance.
“It’s very special to win and this is what it’s all about. They went flat to the boards all the way and Paul said he gave him a squeeze turning in and he came back on it (the bridle). From the last to the line he’s put seven lengths between them.
“I think that was even better than Aintree and he proved he stays.
“I’ll worry about Cheltenham next March. The most important thing is that he’s okay in the morning.
“He came out of Aintree bouncing and it was really Michael and Eddie (O’Leary, of Gigginstown House Stud) that gave me the confidence to come here.
“The owners have that many good horses at the moment that they may want to keep them away from each other and I wouldn’t mind going to England with him.
“He’s finishing his races out this season which he wasn’t doing last year.”
Carberry said: “I rode this horse four or five years ago up the gallop and I said to Gordon if you could have about 10 of these in the yard it would be great. He’s a serious horse.
“He showed he’ll be a (Cheltenham) Gold Cup contender next year.”
Gigginstown’s retained rider Bryan Cooper had elected to ride Road To Riches in preference to the winner, and Elliott added: “I feel sorry for Bryan, but he had to go with the horse who was third in the Gold Cup.
“I’m delighted for Paul who has been associated with me for a long time and I’m delighted to be able to give him a big winner.”
The other two Grade One events of the evening went to Willie Mullins.
Killultagh Vic struck first by repelling the late thrust of Thistlecrack to claim the Novice Hurdle under Paul Townend.
The winner’s stable companion Shaneshill, the 11-8 favourite and choice of Ruby Walsh, was third.
Mullins said: “Killultagh Vic looks like a chaser but I’ll have to have a chat with the owners, who may consider keeping him over hurdles for the World Hurdle.
“It’s great to have such depth, both with our horses and also with our riders. Paul gave the winner a great ride.”
The champion trainer then landed the Champion INH Flat Race for the fifth time in eight years as Bellshill (8-1) ran out an emphatic winner under the trainer’s son, Patrick.
1 Shamiran 33-1
2 Cassells Rock 11-1
3 Sir Ector 25-1
4 Russian Bill 14-1
1 Walk To Freedom 50-1
2 Marchese Marconi 9-2
3 Identity Thief 7-4 Fav
1 Killultagh Vic 8-1
2 Thistlecrack 8-1
3 Shaneshill 11-8 Fav
1 Don Cossack 5-2
2 Djakadam 2-1 Fav
3 Road To Riches 4-1
1 Bellshill 8-1
2 Disko 7-2 Fav
3 Modus 5-1
1 Ballyadam Approach 12-1
2 Baby Mix 9-1
3 Strongpoint 14-1