Wednesday 7 December 2016

Don to wear cheekpieces in Gold Cup

Thomas Kelly

Published 15/01/2016 | 02:30

Don Cossack and Bryan Cooper clear the last in the Kinloch Brae Chase (SPORTSFILE)
Don Cossack and Bryan Cooper clear the last in the Kinloch Brae Chase (SPORTSFILE)

Don Cossack remains 5/1 second favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after running out a workmanlike winner in yesterday's Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles, and Michael O'Leary's gelding will now wear cheekpieces in the big race.

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Gordon Elliott's charge fell last time out in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, but was still sent off the 1/8 favourite to regain the winning thread.

Rubi Light set the early gallop in the four-runner field, with Bryan Cooper happy to track him. However, Cooper had to stoke up Don Cossack four fences from home, giving him a couple of reminders after the third-last.

That seemed to wake up Don Cossack and with two to jump he appeared to be back in control, sailing clear over the last and galloping on well for what was a nine-and-a-half-length success.

Mount Colah made a bad mistake at the second-last, bumping Rubi Light which allowed Wounded Warrior to come through late for second.

Elliott revealed Don Cossack will be equipped with cheekpieces at Prestbury Park, where the Gold Cup remains the target.

"He worked in cheekpieces the other day and flew in them and while there was no point having them on today, he'll have them on in the Gold Cup," the trainer explained.

"Bryan said from the second-last to the line he was only getting going. He was free and exuberant in the early days and while it's not good to look at, the last quarter (of his races) is his best now.

"He's a better horse in the second half of the season and with a bit of better ground and cheekpieces, the Gold Cup is the plan."

Harry Fry's raider Bitofapuzzle unseated as Pat Fahy's Aunt Nora swooped in the final strides to spring a 33/1 shock in the Grade Two Ocovango Coolmore NH Sires Mares EBF Novice Chase.

Bitofapuzzle was sent off the 30/100 favourite for the two-and-a-half-mile contest and appeared to be well in control coming down to the third-last fence in the hands of Noel Fehily.

However, she met the obstacle all wrong and crashed through the top of fence, unshipping Fehily and leaving Queens Wild in the lead.

The latter was still in front jumping the last, but Aunt Nora was pushed all the way to the line by David Mullins and eventually edged it close home.

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