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O'Connell gets call up for Don in the Durkan

Jockey Brian O'Connel has come in for one of the best spare rides going this side of Christmas as he will be on board the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack in Sunday's John Durkan at Punchestown.

The ride became available a fortnight ago when Gigginstown's retained rider Bryan Cooper picked up a four-day ban at Navan and after he failed in his appeal to get that suspension reduced, it was reported that Barry Geraghty would ride the current 5/4 favourite for the race. However, with Geraghty being called upon at Huntingdon in his role as stable jockey to Nicky Henderson, O'Connell has been handed the call-up by Michael O'Leary and his team.

O'Connell has previous Grade One success for Gigginstown having won the Hennessy Gold Cup on Last Instalment for Philip Fenton back in February and prior to that won a Grade One novice chase on the same horse in 2011.

Aside from Fenton's horses though, O'Connell has been used frequently by Gigginstown and he has also won graded races on Real Steel and Lieutenant Colonel. Both of O'Connell's previous winners for Gordon Elliott this season came on a Gigginstown horse called Cape Glory, who won earlier in the summer when O'Connell was deputising for the then injured Cooper.

It's a big afternoon for Elliott who, as well as having Don Cossack heading the field in the John Durkan at Punchestown, also runs the exciting No More Heroes in the Grade Three Kerry Group Stayers Novice Hurdle. No More Heroes made a big impression last season as a bumper horse before running out a facile winner of his maiden hurdle at Punchestown but now faces a step-up in class in what is a decent field with Black Hercules and another Gigginstown-owned horse, Alpha Des Obeaux, also in the seven-runner field.

Kevin Sexton, who guided Balbriggan to win the Troytown, is suspended and has to miss out on renewing that partnership at Aintree, but is declared to ride No More Heroes.

Cork's feature is the Grade Two Hilly Way Chase and that has attracted Tony McCoy to go to Mallow to partner dual Cheltenham Festival winner Alderwood for his boss JP McManus and trainer Tom Mullins. Alderwood will meet nine rivals in the €45,000 contest in which Willie Mullins is double handed with Twinlight and Felix Yonger.


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