Racing UK

Gordon Elliott and Bryan Cooper pay tribute as Don Cossack is retired

Wednesday 11 January 2017

By Andy Stephens

Gordon Elliott described Don Cossack as "the horse of a lifetime" after announcing on Wednesday morning that last year's Gold Cup winner had been retired after suffering a fresh setback.

And Bryan Cooper, regular rider of the 10-year-old, said he was outstanding and fears it will be a long while before he sit on another with his quality.

Don Cossack gave Elliott and Cooper one of their proudest moments when winning chasing's blue riband but the gelding's career has been in jeopardy ever since after he was subsequently found to have suffered a tendon injury.

He had been 12-1 to retain his title and news of his retirement comes just 48 hours after Coneygree, the 2015 Gold Cup winner, was ruled out of this year’s blue riband, for which. 39 entries have been revealed.

Elliott said in his blog for Betfair: "I am very sad to report that Don Cossack has suffered a setback and will now be retired.

“We found that he had a bit of heat in his leg yesterday and we’ve made the decision to call time.

“It's a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run at Gowran Park next month.”

Don Cossack won 16 of his 27 races and won his connections more than £900,000 in prize money.

He was beaten just twice in 12 starts since October 2014. His only defeats were when third in the 2015 Ryanair Chase and when falling two out in the 2015 King George VI Chase when still holding every chance.

“He's a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing,” Elliott said. “I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and retire him straight away.

“He's won Grade Ones at Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Down Royal. He was the top-rated horse in Britain and Ireland for the last two seasons running and we’d have loved to see him take on Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup.

“It would have been a cracking race. That’s racing, as they say, and we have to let that go now and find something else to take on Thistlecrack.”

He added: “It was one of the highlights of my career when Don Cossack won the Gold Cup for us last year and he retires a champion. As I said already, he owes us absolutely nothing and a peaceful retirement awaits him out in Gigginstown.’’

Cooper partnered Don Cossack to win seven races, including the Gold Cup, and the rider admits that day will be hard to top.

He told 32Red: "He gave me the highest point of my career when we won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March, and that day will take some beating whatever I now achieve in the saddle.

"I was actually beaten on my first three rides on him and he was a bit disappointing in his novice chase campaign after he won the Drinmore, but when I rode him on his return at Punchestown the following season after a summer break he was a lot stronger and a totally different horse.

"We knew then we had a horse with the ability to reach the top and his only defeats afterwards were a disappointing third in the Ryanair and when he fell when coming there with every chance in last season's King George.

"In my opinion, he was a 10-15lb better horse on good ground, and I think the formbook backs that up, too.

"He may have handled soft ground but that was just his huge natural ability getting him through it, and riding him on decent ground gave you a completely different feel and experience.

"I imagine it will be a long while before I sit on another as good as him.

"On his day he was outstanding, and at least he bowed out on a high on the racecourse."


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