Watch Bryan Cooper's extensive interview with Alex Steedman at Ludlow on Wednesday after the Gold Cup-winning jockey made his debut as retained rider for Alan Potts.
By Oliver Brett
Bryan Cooper will not give up hope of riding Gold Cup winner Sizing John for Alan Potts after an inauspicious start to his career as the owner’s retained rider at Ludlow on Wednesday.
Cooper failed to trouble the scorers at the Shropshire venue. On his first ride to mark the new association he was last of the 12 finishers on Exxaro in the Rowles Fine Art Handicap Chase. An hour later he was going pretty well when unseated by Mick Thonic three fences from home in the Vera Davies Memorial Chase.
Robbie Power partnered the Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in March, with that victory prompting his initial link up with Potts.
While Cooper expects Power to again be in the driving seat on the reigning champion, he believes there is always a chance he will get the leg-up come the big day at the Festival.
Speaking exclusively to Racing UK Cooper said: "He's Jessie's rider and I'm Colin's rider, that's the way it stands unless he switches to Our Duke. If they both get there in March, he's got a fair choice to make. I know how he feels, so it's great times for him as well."Sizing John is a best-priced 6-1 to defend his Festival Crown, while Our Duke is 10-1. (PA)
It was announced on Tuesday that Cooper would take the British role and he revealed he has consulted two of the best in the game at how to handle the commute from Ireland. Cooper will ride out work at Colin Tizzard’s on Thursday morning.
"It's a great opportunity, they have some fantastic horses and I'm looking forward to it,” he added.
“We'll take it week by week, but there's a lot of exciting horses. I'm over for a couple of days now and we'll take it as it comes.
"I rode some fantastic horses for Gigginstown and I had probably the best four years of my career so far. I'm just grateful I can get on some more very good horses and to me it's all about the big days.
"I'll be based in Ireland, Ruby (Walsh) and Barry (Geraghty) did it for many years and I don't see why I can't do it. We'll give it a go and see how we get on. I had a good chat with Ruby and he said to enjoy it. It's exciting times."
Bigmartre (13-8 favourite) landed the event Mick Thonic contested, making all to win by three and a half lengths on British chase debut for trainer Harry Whittington and jockey Harry Bannister.
Whittington said: "That was fantastic. It's always a great relief to see them actually go and do it. You always hope they will be that slick and jump that well first time over fences as it bodes well for the future.
“I would have thought he would be at his peak over two and a half miles towards the end of the season. but I think we'll probably go for the two-mile novice handicap chase at the Hennessy meeting."
The trainer did stress the horse was best when running fresh, so supporters may have to get used to some long breaks between races.
Braquer D'Or (6-1 favourite) was an impressive winner of Exxaro's race for Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies, while Ian Williams' The Statesman (4-7 favourite) was a 16-length victor in the Queen Elizabeth Humanities College Racing To School Juvenile Maiden Hurdle.
The Statesman's eye-catching performance even triggered a 33-1 Triumph Hurdle quote from BetVictor, although he may have simply beaten horses who were not at peak fitness.
“The three-year-old landed a gamble on the level last month at Sandown and looks a terrific prospect for the Ian Williams yard over hurdles,” BetVictor’s spokesman Jack Milner said.”
Evan Williams' Still Believing (9-2) came out on top in the mares' hurdle and Tizzard gained some compensation for the earlier defeats with the Harry Cobden-ridden Tempestatefloresco (4-9) in the two-mile-five-furlong novice hurdle.