SIR Des Champs' defeat at Punchestown was a shot across the bows of Michael O'Leary's prolific Gigginstown House Stud enterprise and Don Cossack will be expected to set the flagship vessel back on course at Navan on Sunday.
Of all the exciting youngsters that fly those ubiquitous maroon and white silks, few generate such fervour as Gordon Elliott's giant five-year-old does already. Beaten on its sole outing for Eddie Hales at the Punchestown Festival in 2011, the son of Sholokov has emerged as the pride of the fleet since being acquired by O'Leary.
On his hurdling bow at the County Meath venue last month, he readily disposed of Sizing Gold, a highly-regarded Henry de Bromhead-trained gelding that will be short odds to get off the mark over flights if he turns out at Gowran Park tomorrow.
It was a triumph that saw Don Cossack catapulted to the head of the ante-post betting for both of the longer novice hurdles at Cheltenham in March.
That two-mile victory came on the back of three impressive bumper wins, though it wasn't all plain sailing, and it was on this corresponding card 12 months ago that he was nearly sunk.
The front-running Rory O'Moore had established a yawning lead in the Grade Two bumper and to those looking in at least, Nina Carberry needed to be as frantic as she ever is to turn what looked like certain defeat into victory.
Still, they got there in the nick of time and Elliott has spoken in glowing terms ahead of his bid to maintain his unbeaten record at the track in Sunday's Grade One novice hurdle. "Don Cossack has been bouncing since his maiden win. I've been very pleased with him at home," the Longwood handler said.
"It's a big rise in class, but the step- up to two-mile-four will suit. As I've said, this is a proper racehorse and the whole yard is buzzing in anticipation of Sunday."
As ever, Gigginstown has plenty of options in the €70,000 feature, with Ally Cascade, Rule The World and Rye Martini also entered. However, in the event that more than one is declared, for once you suspect Davy Russell's decision will be an easy one. Other rivals might include some of the Willie Mullins' quartet of Touch The Eden, Reine Angevine, Zuzka and Pont Alexandre, a French bumper winner on its only start.
As well as Ally Cascade, Noel Meade has recent course and distance scorer Busty Brown pencilled in, while Seafood, second then, may represent Dessie Hughes.
On a decent card, Jonjo O'Neill has given Get Me Out Of Here an entry in the Grade Two Tara Hurdle, while Mullins has put fellow Cheltenham Festival runner-up Boston Bob in beginners' chases at Navan on Sunday and Fairyhouse on Saturday.
Moscow Mannon, another potential star that got its jumping career off to a fine start at Navan on Saturday, will have its next run in the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas on January 6. "He has come out of the race great, A1," his trainer Brian Hamilton reported. "There's nothing for him over two-and-a-half miles before then, so he'll run in the Slaney Hurdle and we'll see how he goes."
Paul Nicholls, meanwhile, has confirmed that Tidal Bay, a gallant second to Bobs Worth under top-weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, will contest the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28.