Game Cossack claims Gold

Veteran rider Paul Carberry treated the Punchestown crowd to a flying dismount after getting Don Cossack (5/2) up to win the feature Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup.

A P McCoy had ridden the horse to victory at Aintree and the newly-retired jockey – visiting Punchestown as a spectator – had advised Carberry on tactics.

“I’ve always loved the horse and it was great to get the opportunity to ride him – it’s lucky that AP retired!,” said Carberry. “But AP told me how to ride him before the race and it worked out as he said.

“Turning in I was cantering and I put his head down after the second last and then got a good jump at the last. Even though he didn’t win at Cheltenham, to go there, Aintree and then here is hard to do. He’s a fair one, the way he jumps and to show that turn of foot over three miles.

“I rode Don Cossack up the gallop four or five years ago and said to Gordon [Elliott, trainer] that if he could get 10 more of these in the yard it would be great.

“He is a serious horse and jumped great the whole way. He jumped into the back of On His Own down the back but that allowed me to take a pull and every time I asked him, he answered.

“He will be a Gold Cup contender next year and Gordon went the right route with him this year by not killing him early on. It has worked and fair play to him.”

Trainer Gordon Elliott added: “He’s always been the apple of my eye and I feel sorry for Bryan (Cooper) but he had to ride Road To Riches after the Gold Cup run. I’m delighted to give Paul a winner as we go back a long way.

“I was nervous about running him but (owners) Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) filled me with confidence so we decided to take our chance. If the horse wasn’t happy we wouldn’t abuse him.

“They were flat to the boards the whole way around there and I thought that was a better performance than at Aintree. I’ve no idea if he’d stay the extra distance of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, I’ll worry about that next March, there are a lot of races in between.”

Owner Michael O’Leary added: “It’s marvelous, this is the race we’d most like to this week. It was a great training effort from Gordon Elliott as we were coming back quite quickly after Aintree. The rain came at the right time for him but maybe it didn’t help Road To Riches.

“It was a fantastic race. I am very happy with Road To Riches and, with Djakadam there as well, the form seems to have worked out.

“Gordon has managed to find more improvement from Don Cossack. I genuinely thought that this race was coming a little bit soon after Aintree but when you get the right trainer and right horse, anything is possible. Don Cossack is a huge big horse. He was 17 hands over hurdles and as a novice last year and probably had not filled into his frame. Gordon said he is a totally different horse this year and he has been terrific right through the season. He was brilliant at Aintree and again here today.

“Gordon is an outstanding trainer and it is great to win the Gold Cup here in Punchestown. If you can’t win the one in Cheltenham, this one is a pretty good replacement.”

Willie Mullins, trainer of seven-length runner-up Djakadam (2/1 favourite), said: “He was very keen, he’s not been like that before and probably got lit up by going to Cheltenham. But we’ll be able to harness that in a good way next season. It was a tremendous training performance by Gordon to keep Don Cossack fresh and improving all season.”

Bellshill (8/1) brought Willie Mullins a fifth Grade 1 of the week when landing the Champion Bumper under the trainer’s son Patrick.

“I’m delighted and thought Patrick was very brave picking the horse to ride,” said Mullins. “It was also brave of him to go off so far in front but it paid off. I thought the horse may have had enough but Patrick had been riding him at home and was keen to come.

“That gives us a good indication of where we are going next year. It will be hurdling next season but he’s a fine, big horse and will be a chaser one day. When I went home yesterday I thought if nothing else happened we would have had a major week already. I’m delighted with everything.”

Jockey Patrick Mullins added: “He was the first of ours home at Cheltenham and ran a cracker at Aintree, which was the form on offer from our yard so that’s why I picked him. We had such a fantastic Cheltenham but the Champion Bumper was the one real downer and nothing really showed up. But at least this fella has come on and run well at Aintree and won today. To run at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown, he must be some tough horse.

“He has improved with every run. He has plenty of size and is well able to jump. Dermot who does a lot of work with him at home and has been telling me all year that he is improving with every month. It is fantastic for the Wylies. They didn’t have winners at Cheltenham so this helps make up for that.”

Owner Graham Wylie added: “He must be a very tough horse as he went to Cheltenham, to Aintree and has then come here today. I was down at Willie’s yard this morning and he said don’t expect much from Bellshill as he has had a tough season, so I wasn’t cheering much from the stands. To see him win today in such style was just tremendous. He is a lovely horse and a nice prospect for next season.

“I remember standing in the unsaddling enclosure at Cheltenham and I think Bellshill was the best of the Irish. I was with Willie and Ruby and they just looked puzzled. But he has come out and run well at Aintree and won today, so I am not sure what happened at Cheltenham.

“He will be going over hurdles next season. He’ll have a rest now and come back in October. Willie will probably find something for him between two and two and a half miles.”

Co Cork handler Terence O’Brien had the biggest success of his training career when Ballyadam Approach captured the Guinness Handicap Chase. “I’ve always thought he was a good horse but he’s had so many problems and his owner has been very patient,” said O’Brien. “I’ll think about the Galway Plate but I’m tempted to put him away now and wait for next season.”

Wining rider David Splaine added: “I have to give a big thanks to Terence O’Brien and the owners as they have done a great job with him. If anything, he’s improved all year. He is 10 years old now but seems to be getting better. It would be nice to keep him going for a while but it depends what the weather does.

“If you are on a good stride, he will give you some feel. Even if you are slightly wrong, he is clever enough to sort himself out. I got a great ride today and he galloped out to the line. I am delighted.

“This is our Cheltenham. It’s nice just to be riding here and to have a winner is better still.”


Today’s attendance at Punchestown was 16,880, compared to 15,748 last year.

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