A DOUBLE at Fairyhouse yesterday for his boss Dessie Hughes could well be Bryan Cooper's last in that role before he becomes the new retained rider to Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud following the shock decision on New Year's Eve to relieve Davy Russell of his duties.
Russell's three rides for O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud failed to yield any success at Tramore yesterday as the reign of the Cork jockey as retained rider to the champion owner came to an end when Roi Du Mee finished second to Marito in the feature race at the track.
Two-time champion jockey Russell (pictured right) yesterday admitted he was surprised when O'Leary told him over a cup of tea shortly after he had won on the owner's Rogue Angel at Punchestown on New Year's Eve that his contract would not be renewed going forward and that yesterday's three rides at Tramore would be his last in the role as their number one jockey, although O'Leary has said that he expects Russell to ride for him in the future.
Less than a quarter of an hour after Russell had to settle for second place on the Gigginstown owned 5/4 favourite Enjoy Responsibly at Tramore, Cooper was instigating his Fairyhouse double by winning on the 1/1 favourite Lieutenant Colonel in O'Leary's maroon and white colours, while he completed the brace on JP McManus-owned Off The Charts who was also trained by Hughes.
Hughes commented yesterday at how disappointed he would be to lose his stable jockey, who he has nurtured to become champion conditional and incidentally Off The Charts was Cooper's 100th winner over jumps for the Curragh-based trainer.
Russell did end the day on a slightly better note at Tramore as he rode his first winner as a freelance when he guided Thats The Dream to win the finale for Robert Tyner.
It is believed that the Gigginstown team were assessing a shortlist of five jockeys and that when O'Leary's brother and racing manager Eddie returns from holiday in the coming days, a replacement to Russell is set to be targeted.
Cooper was installed as the 1/5 favourite for the job with Paddy Power with Townend 6/1 second favourite and Jason Maguire, who is believed to have been the only British-based jockey under consideration, a 7/1 shot.
Cork is due to hold the next jumps meeting in Ireland on Saturday, but the track is currently waterlogged and Gigginstown don't have any entries, but they do have notable entries at Naas on Sunday including four in the Grade Two Slaney Novice Hurdle.