Cooper opts to go for Gold on Don Cossack
The final unknown of the 2016 Timico Gold Cup preamble was revealed yesterday morning when Bryan Cooper opted for Don Cossack over Don Poli.
A field of 10 has been declared tomorrow's event, although Noel Meade's 2015 third Road To Riches, also owned by Cooper's Gigginstown Stud employers, is due to run in today's Ryanair Chase.
Cooper had to choose between Gordon Elliott's 3/1 race favourite Don Cossack and Willie Mullins's dual Cheltenham Festival winner Don Poli.
Davy Russell, Cooper's predecessor as Michael O'Leary's retained rider, takes over on Don Poli.
Don Cossack's preference for good ground had made Cooper's final choice look inevitable given conditions at Prestbury Park in recent days, and he confirmed as much on Channel 4's 'Morning Line' yesterday.
"I will ride Don Cossack," he said. "The ground is plenty dry enough, he's officially the highest rated horse in training. The decision is made and I won't be changing my mind.
"It wasn't an easy decision because if you get it wrong, you'd be kicking yourself for the next six months. He's in tremendous form - Gordon has him in top shape. We'll be out to prove to all the doubters (who say) he doesn't handle Cheltenham that they're wrong."
Don Cossack has actually been overtaken as the highest rated chaser by Cue Card, which boasts a pound higher rating of 176 since winning the King George. He will bid to complete the £1m Triple Crown under Paddy Brennan after also winning the Betfair Chase.
Mullins and Ruby Walsh combine for last year's runner-up Djakadam, while the trainer's son Patrick will partner On His Own.
John Kiely's dual Irish Hennessy Gold Cup victor Carlingford Lough will be ridden by Barry Geraghty.
When the official going was changed yesterday morning, it was given as good, good to soft in places. However, clerk of the course Simon Claisse opted to water overnight.
"The dry outlook will last into Friday so we are going to water selectively to maintain current conditions," Claisse said.
Meanwhile, the day two attendance came in at 57,093, up 3pc or 1,734 on 2015. The figure is a record for the new four-day format.