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Don Cossack books Ryanair ticket with Durkan success

Don Cossack is being targeted at the Ryanair Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival following his win the in Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, and Coral make him 8/1 (from 12s) for the 2m 5f contest.

The Gordon Elliott trained gelding made in three from three this season when putting in a superb round of jumping to beat Boston Bob by 4 1/2 lengths in the 2m 4f feature race.

The seven-year-old, who was a Grade 1 winner over hurdles, now looks a far stronger horse who had developed into the real deal.

Don Cossack was left in front under jockey Broan O’Connell when Bailey Green and Rathlin came down at the third, but travelled strongly throughout and found plenty when challenged by Boston Bob and Texas Jack between the final two fences.

The son of Sholokhov produced a tremendous leap when asked for a big one at the last by O’Connell and then stayed on strongly to go clear on the run-in.

The form of the race looks strong given that the runner-up won Grade 1 contests at Aintree and Punchestown last season, and the third home Lord Windermere won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

A delighted Elliott confirmed that the Ryanair was now the ultimate aim for the Gigginstown House Stud owned Don Cossack.

The race is sponsored by his owner Michael O’Leary, whose famous colours were carried into second place by First Lieutenant in the 2013 running.

That is the closest the Ryanair supremo has come to winning his own race, and Don Cossack looks to be a live contender to go one better.

Elliott said: “I’ll have to talk to Michael and Eddie (O’Leary), but if I had my way he wouldn’t run until Cheltenham and go straight for the Ryanair. I have to discuss it with the owners as they have a lot of horses. He won’t go to the King George.”

Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere, who ran a fine race on his seasonal reappearance to finishing a staying on five length third over an inadequate trip, was left unchanged at 12/1 by Coral top retain his crown next March.

The Jim Culloty trained eight-year-old is likely to appear next in Lexus Chase at Leopradstown on December 28.

If all goes to plan connections are then planning a tilt at the Irish Hennessy en-route to the Cheltenham Festival, where Lord Windermere will bid to become the first since Best Mate in 2002/03 to win back-to-back runnings of the Gold Cup.