Cossack needs to sharpen up

'Lazy' Don to wear cheek-pieces in the Gold Cup after workmanlike Thurles win

Bryan Cooper and Don Cossack before their nine-and- a-half length victory at Thurles (Racing Post)

Niall Cronin

Cheltenham Gold Cup second favourite Don Cossack was sent to Thurles yesterday for a confidence-boosting clear round of jumping and while he did win the Grade Two Kinloch Brae and banished the memory of his fall in the King George last month, the performance certainly provoked plenty of talking points.

Bookmakers had mixed opinions of the nine-and-a-half length victory with Boylesports leaving him at 5/1 for the Gold Cup, while Paddy Power left him unchanged at 4/1.

Betfair were apparently least impressed with the efforts of the 1/8 favourite for yesterday's race as they pushed him out to 6/1 from 5/1.

Don Cossack was never really travelling with conviction during the 2m4f race, which he won last year by 44 lengths and had to be stoked up on a couple of occasions by Bryan Cooper but once he got to the last fence and jumped it well, he finished out to the line in good style and was undoubtedly at his most impressive in the latter stages of the race.

That was something that didn't surprise jockey Cooper.

"He is gone lazy and laidback but the main thing now is that he's probably a better horse on better ground.

"He has come back in trip, which isn't ideal, as he has turned into more of a stayer and he won this last year when he probably had a bit more speed.

"But he is getting older and we've been training him to stay so he's come back half-a-mile too short here. What I like was when he jumped the second last and I gave him two or three slaps down the shoulder, he went on.

"There's only one big day and that's March and that's what we are aiming for."

Gordon Elliott, who had earlier notched up a winner with Westend Star, stressed that Don Cossack would be better on nicer ground and that cheek-pieces would be applied for the first time in a race when he lines up in the Gold Cup.

"He was a little bit the same at Down Royal and I just don't think he likes that ground at all. He won today and that's great but he's going to have to sharpen up to win the Gold Cup," Elliott admitted.

"I think he'll be better on better ground and going a bit further. Two and a half miles around here is too sharp for him but we'll go home now and get him ready for the Gold Cup."

The Meath-based trainer admitted that Don Cossack did wear cheek-pieces in his work last week and that they are likely to be applied at Cheltenham in a race for the first time.

"I didn't want to put them (cheek-pieces) on him today and we'll have them for the Gold Cup. I'll talk to Michael and Eddie and we'll try and keep every ace we have for the big day.

"Look at last year and the facts prove that when he gets better ground he is a stone better horse but he'll have to be a stone better to win a Gold Cup."