Cheltenham Festival 2016: Is Cossack the right Don for Cooper?
David Metcalf | February 15, 2016
Don Cossack is 4/1 favourite with Coral for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but would he be the right choice from a strong Gigginstown House Stud owned entry for their retained jockey Bryan Cooper?
As well as Don Cossack, Gigginstown have 6/1 shot Don Poli, plus last year’s third Road To Riches (16/1) among their possible contenders for the 3m 2f contest on Friday, March 18th.
Don Cossack was a revelation last season, and the manner of his victories in Aintree’s Melling Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup elevated him to the top of the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications with a rating of 175.
The Gordon Elliott trained gelding slammed Djakadam by eight lengths in the latter, and that rival had previously run a blinder to finish runner-up to Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Punchestown win very strong form
That is extremely strong form, and the nine-year-old has looked as good as ever in three of his four starts this season.
After a facile 12-length victory in a Grade 3 contest at Punchestown, Don Cossack toyed with Rocky Creek when winning the Grade 1 JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal unextended by eight lengths.
He then fell two from home in the King George at Kempton when staying on and holding every chance, before returning to winning ways when landing the Kinloch Brae at Thurles in workmanlike fashion
Cheltenham record a big concern, but not for Don Poli
There is little doubt that Don Cossack is a real class act, but I am not convinced he is the ideal sort for Cheltenham.
His previous two visits to the Festival have seen him fall in the 2015 running of the RSA Chase, and he could finish only third when sent off favourite for last year’s Ryanair Chase when making some costly errors.
For that reason alone I think he is vulnerable, so If I were Cooper I would be pinning my colours to the mast of Don Poli.
The Willie Mullins trained gelding is unbeaten in two starts at the Festival, landing the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle in 2014 before running out the impressive winner of last season’s RSA Chase.
Don Poli then failed to fire at the Punchestown Festival, but has won both his starts this season in the manner of a serious staying chaser.
Aintree success oozed class
In the first of those, the seven-year-old overcome adversity to get the the better of last season’s Grand National hero Many Clouds in the Lotto Chase at Aintree.
Don Poli’s girth strap went with about half a circuit to run, and Cooper performed miracles to stay in the saddle and steer him to success.
Although Don Poli only scored by four lengths, he is a lazy sort and forged clear 200 yards from the line to win with far more in hand than the winning margin suggests.
It was a performance which oozed class, and Don Poli has since gone on to land a battling 1/2 a length success in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown when idling once hitting the front.
Ideal attributes for Gold Cup challenge
Although may were not impressed with his Lexus win, I was, as Don Poli only does enough to get the job done.
He is a strong travelling sort, good jumper, and thorough stayer and those are the perfect attributes for the Gold Cup.
Don Poli also remains open to further improvement after just six starts over the larger obstacles (won five), and his Cheltenham record is another feather in his cap.
Cooper is to make a last minute decision on who to partner in chasing’s blue ribbon contest on the final day of the Festival.
Taking everything into account, I think Don Poli has the more solid credentials than Don Cossack to land the spoils and they are undoubtedly the pair Cooper’s choice will boil down to.
For much more on the 2016 Cheltenham Festival ahead of it hitting our screens this mid-March, check out Coral’s dedicated page.