Don Cossack justified 9/4 favouritism in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, winning by four and a half lengths for owner Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Bryan Cooper.
It was an eighth Festival success for 38-year-old Elliott who won the Grand National with Silver Birch in his first season as a trainer, said: "I'm just so happy for all of us - all the staff in the yard, and my mother and father.
"I'm in a great position; I've got a lot of good owners at the moment.
"I can't believe it! It's unbelievable. I'm delighted for my staff, my family. It's great. To be honest, I need to look at the race again - I was so nervous all the way around. That was something special.
"Brilliant, unbelievable, I can't believe it. I can't thank Michael and Anita and Eddie [O'Leary] and Wendy enough, and all at Gigginstown - they supported me from the start.
"I've never been so nervous in my life. I'm just so happy for all of us, all the staff in the yard, my mother and father.
"It means so much to me to win a Gold Cup. It was something special."
COSSACK DANCES TO GOLD CUP VICTORY
Two years after suffering a bad leg break at the Cheltenham Festival, Bryan Cooper struck gold after Don Cossack stormed to victory in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup this afternoon.
Cooper was riding Clarcam, owned by Gigginstown House Stud (who also own Don Cossack and retain Cooper as their stable jockey) in the 2014 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle when the four-year-old fell at the second last when holding a narrow lead. Cooper broke the tibia and fibia in his right leg and doctors feared he could lose his leg but the popular Irishman made a full recovery and recorded the biggest victory of his career to date as Don Cossack put his rivals to the sword with a bloodless performance.
Cooper always had the 9/4 favourite handy and the pair only had Djakadam to beat after the unfortunate fall of Cue Card three fences from home. He sent the nine-year-old for home as the field turned into the home straight and the runner-up had no answer to his finishing kick, as Don Cossack skipped up the hill to land a famous four and a half-length victory.
The jockey was understandably delighted after the race.
"I can't believe that's happened - it was over so quick," said Cooper.
"I couldn't believe I was going that easy turning for home. He went to go round again at the bend after the last. He galloped the whole way to the line. He jumped great - he only missed one fence all the way round. Other than that, he was foot perfect.
"Fair play to Gordon and the team, Michael (O'Leary - whose Gigginstown House Stud own the horse) and Eddie (O'Leary - Michael's brother) - they always believed in him and trained him for this race.
"We've put all the doubters away now - they all said he wasn't good enough. All the people who said I didn't get on with him - we've put them in their place today. There's only one day - and this was it. He didn't need cheekpieces on this ground. He might have needed them if it was soft, but not on that ground. We've not quite had one good enough this week but this one certainly was.
"I can't thank Michael and Eddie enough. From the time I broke my leg here two years ago, they have supported me all the way. Last year was a hit and miss year, I had a couple that got away from us but they really stuck by me. That filled me full of confidence. We're a great team and this was a great team effort. Don Cossack has beaten what's been put in front of him and that's all he can do. He's the best I've ever sat on.
"It wasn't an easy decision to make (Cooper had to choose whether to ride Don Cossack or third-placed Don Poli, who is in the same ownership) and I think people backed Don Poli more as they thought I'd chosen the wrong one. We proved it though - he was the best horse and the highest rated horse for a reason.
"I think it's clear to say that he needs good ground now. Everything went perfect today. He got into a great rhythm and jumped well. We didn't want to get him crowded and we didn't. I knew from the turn in that he'd win."
Bryan Cooper said at the post-race press confrerence that he always 'knew he was on the right horse' after winning the Timico Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Don Cossack for his boss Michael O'Leary.
Cooper was left with what looked like a hard choice between two Gigginstown horses and chose to ride Don Cossack, which meant getting off last year's RSA winner Don Poli who finished third today.
Cooper said about the decision: "It wasn't that easy after Don Poli won the RSA last year although it's hard to know how much he had left last year. I knew I would be on the best horse in the race, Gordon (Elliot) and everyone had him in tip-top shape."
Explaining how the race turned out, Cooper continued: "I had plenty of horse under me and came close to the fourth last and still landed running away, and I knew I had Ruby (Walsh on Djakadam) and Cue Card in trouble and it was a case of him being quick enough and from the last he had his ears pricked and he wasn't doing a stroke.
"There were a lot of press around saying that 'I couldn't get on with the horse' and I think I've proved you all wrong now so I'm delighted."
Cooper, who started his career with Dessie Hughes, paid tribute to the late trainer: "Definitely I wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for Dessie, and he was definitely cheering me on over the last."
Talking about the pressure riding for such a high-profile boss, Cooper commented: "I was under no pressure from any of the trainers or the owners. They knew the runners were finishing as good as they could, there have been no hard luck stories, except No More Heroes who we unfortunately lost - he was the one that got away.
"I had a great winner yesterday, one I least expected but that did help settle the nerves and it took that little bit of pressure off. I'm only 23 - Ruby, Barry and Davy Russell have 10 to 15 years more experience ahead of me but they've been very good to me, they keep saying keep your chin up and train hard and thankfully it paid off."
Cooper, who broke his leg badly in the 2104 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at The Festival, said: "It was bad enough, but there are plenty of soccer players who have had the same injury and been back playing after four or six months later. I've always said that if it happened at Thurles on a Thursday it wouldn't have been blown up half as much and it was the first year in the new job and everybody thought that was it.
"But I came back and had a good season last year, won the RSA and there were maybe one or two got away, but we're here now a year older, a year wiser supported by a great team and I'm very lucky."
DON GIVES O'LEARY SECOND GOLD CUP
Don Cossack's impressive four and a half length success in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup was a second in the showpiece race for owner Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, after War Of Attrition's win in 2006.
Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Bryan Cooper, was the 9/4 favourite.
O'Leary said: "I am actually so emotional! We have been doing seconds all week. Bryan gave Don Cossack a peach of a ride and for [O'Leary's other runner] Don Poli to finish third is brilliant.
"I am delighted for Gordon. He has obviously had a tough week losing No More Heroes and it was also tough for Bryan. To win a Gold Cup is beyond dreams. It is 10 years since we won it with War Of Attrition and what a way to celebrate the anniversary.
"What a race. Djakadam put it up to him the whole way around and I feel sorry for Cue Card. It is a pity.
"Gold Cups are incredibly hard to win. I'm thrilled! I'm so happy I could cry.
"Gordon's a magnificent trainer, Bryan's a magnificent jockey. To win a Gold Cup at just 23, 24... Ruby [Walsh] has had a great week, but Ruby is the master of riding round here and hopefully Bryan will be the next Ruby."
When asked whether it has been a long wait since War Of Attrition took the race, O'Leary replied: "It's very tough to find those horses. We've had a few like Weapon's Amnesty, who won an RSA Chase and got injured. Gold Cup winners are impossible to find. I've bought a lot of horses in the past 10 years!"
SECOND AGAIN FOR DJAKADAM AS IRISH SWEEP FIRST FOUR PLACES
Irish stables mopped up steeplechasing's greatest race as Don Cossack led his rivals home in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The runner-up Djakadam, a 9/2 chance, was repeating his placing of 12 months ago - he was beaten four and a half lengths this time, but was 10 lengths clear of his stablemate Don Poli, who, like the winner, is owned by Gigginstown House Stud. Jockey Bryan Cooper, who is retained by Gigginstown, could have ridden Don Poli, but picked the right one.
Willie Mullins, who has yet to win the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, and who has trained the runner-up six times, said of Djakadam, who was ridden by Ruby Walsh for owner Rich Ricci: "We have no excuses - he had every chance from the fifth-last home and jumped as cleanly as he could. He was beaten by a better horse on the day so congratulations to all the connections of the winner.
"Gigginstown invest a huge amount in Irish sport, I'm delighted for Gordon [Elliott, the trainer of Don Cossack] and also for Bryan Cooper. He had a difficult choice to make, and while it may not have looked that way during the race he has been wondering for a month about his choice of rides.
"I would imagine the ground was just too fast for Don Poli - he wasn't able to go the pace. He just stayed on and on and is possibly a Grand National horse.
"It's tough to finish second twice with Djakadam, and it is going to be tough now for him to win one. We'll see, but I would imagine he would stay on this road in a bid to come back here next year."
CUE CARD FINE AFTER HIS FALL
Colin Tizzard reflected on Cue Card's fall at the third last fence when his horse had taken a narrow lead.
The trainer said: "We just thank god that Cue Card got up after the fall. That is championship racing, isn't it - two seconds before that you think here we go - he was slightly in front. He just put down and hit the top of the fence and over he went.
"He is absolutely fine, he's walked away as though he hasn't got care in the world and hardly blowing. There are worst things that have happened.
"Going flat out in a Gold Cup, it will bring mistakes. He hasn't looked like falling in four seasons of chasing. Joe fell off him once.
"He was running a brilliant race - chuffed to have had him for the last six years. He is racing differently nowadays - off the bridle and lobbing along."
Cue Card started at 5/2 second favourite today in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
3.30pm G1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
1 Don Cossack (GER) (Tongue Strap) Gordon Elliott, Ireland 11st 10lb Bryan Cooper 9/4 Fav 2 Djakadam (FR) Willie Mullins, Ireland 11st 10lb Ruby Walsh 9/2 3 Don Poli (IRE) Willie Mullins, Ireland 11st 10lb Davy Russell 9/2 4 Carlingford Lough (IRE) John Kiely, Ireland 11st 10lb Barry Geraghty 5 Irish Cavalier (IRE) (Sheepskin C/P) Rebecca Curtis 11st 10lb Paul Townend 6 Smad Place (FR) Alan King 11st 10lb Wayne Hutchinson 7 O'Faolains Boy (IRE) (Sheepskin C/P) Rebecca Curtis 11st 10lb Noel Fehily 8 On His Own (IRE) (Sheepskin C/P) Willie Mullins, Ireland 11st 10lb Mr Patrick Mullins FELL 3 OUT Cue Card (Tongue Strap) Colin Tizzard 11st 10lb Paddy Brennan
9 ran Non-Runner: Road To Riches (Other, Ran Yesterday) Distances: 4½, 10, 7, nose, 16, 15, 1½ Breeder: Gestut Etzean Breeding: br g Sholokhov (IRE) - Depeche Toi (GER) (Konigsstuhl (GER)) Tote Win: £3.00 Places: £1.50,£1.50,£1.80 Exacta: £579,902
Gordon Elliott Synopsis - Has risen to become one of Ireland's leading Jump trainers since taking out his licence 10 years ago. Shot to international prominence with victory in the 2007 Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree, aged 29, despite having not had a winner back home, and has gone on to record numerous major wins in Ireland and Britain, including five successes at The Festival. Born - March 2, 1978 Background - a successful point-to-point rider, who also partnered winners under Rules. Started his racing career while still at school, working at Tony Martin's stable in County Meath. From there, he moved to Britain, joining Martin Pipe in 2002, and during his spell in Somerset his six rides as an amateur included one winner. Elliott then returned to Ireland for another term at Martin's stables. Started training from Capranny Stables in Trim, Co Meath in early 2006 and bought Cullentra House farm in 2011. He has emerged over the last few seasons as the main challenger to Willie Mullins' dominance in Ireland and has already sent out more than 100 winners at home this season. First winner as a trainer - Arresting, Fugro-Technip Handicap Hurdle, Perth, June 11, 2006
Cheltenham Festival wins (8) 2011: 2 - National Hunt Chase (Chicago Grey), Coral Cup (Carlito Brigante) 2013: 1 - Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Flaxen Flare) 2014: 1 - JCB Triumph Hurdle (Tiger Roll) 2015: 1 - National Hunt Chase (Cause Of Causes) 2016: 3 (so far) Coral Cup (Diamond King), Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Cause Of Causes), Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (2016 Don Cossack)
Other major wins include: Crabbie's Grand National (2007 Silver Birch) , Betfred Ebor (2010 Dirar), Drinmore Novice Chase (2010 Jessies Dream, 2013 Don Cossack, 2015 No More Heroes), Powers Gold Cup (2013 Realt Mor), Punchestown Champion Novice Chase (2013 Mount Benbulben), JNWine.com Champion Chase (2013 Roi Du Mee, 2015 Don Cossack), John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase (2014 Don Cossack), Racing Post Novice Chase (2014 Clarcam), Manifesto Novices' Chase (2015 Clarcam), Melling Chase (2015 Don Cossack), Punchestown Gold Cup (2015 Don Cossack), Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle (2015 Prince Of Scars), Neville Hotels Novice Chase (2015 No More Heroes)
6th success at The Festival for jockey Bryan Cooper (1st Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup victory)
15th success at The Festival for owner Gigginstown House Stud (2nd Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup victory after War Of Attrition in 2006).
Coneygree became the first novice since Captain Christy to win the 2015 Gold Cup.
Lord Windemere landed a shock in winning the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup but disappointed last term.
Previously Bobs Worth landed the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup becoming the first horse since Flying Bolt in the 1960s to win three different races at successive Cheltenham Festivals.
Gold Cup Winners 2006-2015
Chletenham Gold Cup Trivia
Kauto Star, winner in 2007 and 2009 and is the only horse to regain the Gold Cup.
In addition to Kauto only six other horses have won more than once, Best Mate (2002/03/04), L'Escargot (1970/71), Arkle (1964/65/66), Cottage Rake (1948/49/50), Golden Miller (1932/33/34/35/36) and Easter Hero (1929/30).
Golden Miller holds the record for the most Gold Cup victories, with five consecutive wins from 1932-36.
Coneygree was the first novice to win the race since Captain Christy in 1974
The most successful trainer was the legenadryTom Dreaper. He saddled the Gold Cup winner of 5 occasions with n Prince Regent (1946), Arkle (1964, 1965 and 1966) and Fort Leney (1968).
The most successful jockey is Pat Taaffe, who recorded four victories on Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and Fort Leney (1968).
The longest-priced winner was Norton's Coin, who started at 100/1 in 1990
The shortest priced winner was Arkle, the 1/10 favourite in 1966.
Dawn Run is the only horse to have won both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup. She was successful in 1984 and 1986 respectively.
Chletenham Gold Cup Ten Year Stats up to 2014
Paul Nicholls is the most successful current trainer with 4 wins (3 of them since 2007)
Nicky Henderson has trained two of the last five winners
The most successful current jockeys are Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh with 2 wins each
Prior to Bobs Worth win in 2013 the previous 13 winners ran in either the King George (9) or Lexus Chase (4)
Ten Year Fate of Favourite : 0 1 2 1 F 1 3 1 5 7
Ten Year Winner's Market Position : 3 1 2 1 3 1 4 1 2
Coneygree, Bobs Worth and Dawn Run are the only two horses to have won the Gold Cup of five or fewer chase starts in over 50 years
The last 15 winners had previously been successful at Grade 1 level
9 of last 12 winners rated 166+
Bobs Worth won of a break of 104 days the previous 10 winners all had prep runs between 34 and 83 days beforehand
4 of the last 7 winners had won a race at the previous festival ( 3 RSA, 1 Ryanair Chase)