Paul Carberry fills Gold Cup blank with Don Cossack
Bryan Cooper takes the wrong pick of Gigginstown Stud team as veteran rider comes to fore
Matthew Bowes is unseated by Waydownsouth during the Martinstown Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA. Matthew Bowes is unseated by Waydownsouth during the Martinstown Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA.
Bryan Cooper has the enviable pick of Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team but found out again that choice has its minuses too when Paul Carberry brilliantly stepped in for the winning Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup ride on Don Cossack.
As Carberry relished filling in a rare big-race blank on his CV, Cooper, one of the new stars of the jockeys’ room, endured the finish from third on Road To Riches while Don Cossack powered seven lengths clear of the 2 to 1 favourite Djakadam.
If Cooper looked disconsolate, Carberry’s obvious enjoyment afterwards was rooted in the knowledge that, at 41, opportunities to win the €200,000 highlight were running out.
His quick pre-race word with Tony McCoy, who had ridden Don Cossack to win at Aintree just three weeks before, was a salutary reminder of how close to the finish line one of the most colourful and extravagantly gifted riding careers is.
A little older than his now-retired old sparring partner, Carberry however continues to give the impression he can continue to grace centre-stage for as long as his notoriously injury-prone body holds out because the outrageous talent remains unbreakable: “I’ll keep going as long as winners like these keep coming.”
All too aware Don Cossack had never previously been successful at the trip, Carberry smuggled him through from the rear of the field as Road To Riches and Djakadam swapped the lead but neither rival which had filled out the Cheltenham Gold Cup frame behind Coneygree had any answer to the winner who widened the gap all the way to the line.
“It’s great to win this race – eventually!” beamed Carberry. “I rode this horse before he ran in bumpers and loved him. It’s just as AP retired or he would have been on him but he’s a serious horse and shown he’ll be a Gold Cup contender.”
Once referred to as an “aeroplane” by Gordon Elliott, Don Cossack is now maturing into the sort of “blue-riband” contender that Gigginstown has long hoped for and bookmakers make him as low as 6 to 1 for the 2016 Gold Cup.
Any old suspicions of vulnerability about the horse have been banished by bouncing back from an unlucky Cheltenham third to win in Liverpool and then progress again to post what looks like being rated a career best performance.
That would make him the top rated chaser in Ireland and while Carberry’s old head has rarely been labelled wise, the former champion would no doubt remind Cooper that Don Cossack is some prospect to look forward to despite any initial disappointment he might feel.
At 22, Cooper is at the other end of the career spectrum and having largely made his name on discards when Davy Russell was O’Leary’s number one, he has had to learn to cope with the frustration of picking wrong himself, such as when Carberry guided Road To Riches to a Grade One 1 at Down Royal six months previously.
Cooper’s hardly alone in getting it wrong however. Ruby Walsh surprised no one by picking Shaneshill from Willie Mullins’s trio in the Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle but the 11 to 8 favourite faded quickly to third as his stable companion Killultagh Vic held on from the English raider Thistlecrack.
Both of Mullins’s previous Martin Pipe Hurdle winners – Sir Des Champs and Don Poli – graduated to become Grade One chasers although the trainer admitted he would consider keeping Killlultagh Vic to flights and that provoked 12 to 1 World Hurdle quotes.
Patrick Mullins had the pick of his father’s five runners in the Attheraces Champion Bumper and the champion amateur got it spot on as Bellshill proved far too strong for the Gigginstown favourite Disko and also the English raider Modus.
“Patrick was brave in picking him. I thought he’d had a long season. And he was brave in making his move from where he went on,” said the champion trainer who has picked up five of the six Grade One prizes run so far this week.
If punters felt Shamiran’s back-to-back victory at 33 to 1 in the Opportunity Hurdle was a blow, they didn’t have long to wait for a harder one as Walk To Freedom confounded the form book with a 50 to 1 victory.
“He’s very quirky. He got it together today and when he does he has quite an engine,” said trainer Jessica Harrington.
Jamie Codd won the concluding bumper on Champers On Ice but picked up a two-day ban for his whip use.