Cooper's joy at Gigginstown job spoiled by injury to Sir Des Champs
On a day that saw Bryan Cooper formally installed as Davy Russell's successor as first jockey to Gigginstown House Stud, Willie Mullins revealed that the firm's star chaser Sir Des Champs will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.
Russell and Gigginstown, Michael O'Leary's Mullingar-based racing vehicle, helped each other to their respective second championship titles last year. However, the Ryanair supremo shocked the racing community by announcing on New Year's Eve that Russell's contract as retained rider would not be renewed.
Cooper, who has operated as Russell's deputy for the past two seasons, has enjoyed a rapid rise up the ranks and said he was "honoured" to get the job.
"It's a great honour to have been asked. I've had a good bit of success for the team over the last two or three years and it's great to get the call-up," remarked Cooper. "I could sit here all day going through all the good horses I'm looking forward to riding."
Unfortunately for him, there was a sting in the tail. Sir Des Champs was the one Gigginstown horse that Cooper got passed over for when Russell got injured last year, with AP McCoy steering him into second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Sir Des Champs was being trained for a second tilt at the blue riband event but Cooper will now have to wait until next season to finally ride him in a race. "He has suffered slight damage to a tendon," the champion trainer said. "The injury is going to take time to heal, so we have decided to pull the plug on the remainder of this season."
Earlier, Cooper held onto Leopardstown's Grade One Dial-A-Bet Chase that he won on Benefficient. John 'Shark' Hanlon, trainer of runner-up Hidden Cyclone, appealed the result on the basis that Benefficient hampered his horse, but Turf Club threw out the case and ordered Hanlon's deposit be forfeited.