Cooper's bad break puts the Gold Cup spotlight on O'Connell
Brian O'Connell will retain the plum mount on Last Instalment should Philip Fenton's charge tackle the Cheltenham Gold Cup after Bryan Cooper's broke his right leg in a fall at the course yesterday.
O'Connell extended his unbeaten record aboard Last Instalment – 7/1 to achieve glory tomorrow – to four when they bagged a famous Hennessy Gold Cup triumph at Leopardstown. Cooper, who has had first dibs on Michael O'Leary's elite Gigginstown House Stud team, had chosen to ride First Lieutenant.
But the talented Kerry-born rider's roller-coaster year took a sharp nosedive when he was found to have broken the tibia and fibia in his right leg after suffering a heavy fall from Gigginstown's Clarcam in the Fred Winter Hurdle. They were in front and travelling well at the time and it was Cooper's second fall of the day after Don Cossack crashed out of the RSA Chase.
"He has had quite a bad break and is having surgery this evening, hopefully," Eddie O'Leary, racing manager for his brother Michael, said. "It will revert back to Brian O'Connell for Last Instalment."
O'Leary added that O'Connell will also ride Mouse Morris' Rule The World in today's World Hurdle, with David Casey falling in for Rathlin in the Ryanair Chase and Russell getting a recall for Willie Mullins' Mozoltov in the JLT Novices' Chase. Casey is also understood to be in line for First Lieutenant in tomorrow's Gold Cup, which Last Instalment could yet miss if the Gigginstown team don't deem the ground to be sufficiently soft.
The track has been drying out and record times have been clocked, prompting the clerk of the course Simon Claisse to confirm that "between three to five millimetres of water" would be applied to the quicker areas last night. It is still officially good, good to soft in places.
Fenton's Dunguib is understood to have been retired after pulling up lame in the Coral Cup. Pat Fahy's Stack The Deck had to be put down after being injured on the flat.