Sunday 17 December 2017

Cossack the don of elite chasers

Don Cossack and Paul Carberry on their way to winning the Gold Cup at Punchestown in April
Don Cossack and Paul Carberry on their way to winning the Gold Cup at Punchestown in April
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Gordon Elliott's Don Cossack has officially been anointed the highest-rated chaser in training at the expense of Gold Cup winner Coneygree and dual King George hero Silviniaco Conti.

Irish horses dominated the annual Anglo-Irish classifications, emerging on top of eight of the 10 categories.

Faugheen's superiority over his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Arctic Fire (169) was not unexpected in the two-mile hurdling ranks, though a mark of 174 leaves him a pound shy of Hurricane Fly at his peak, a summit Mullins suspected he had yet to scale.

Mullins' Douvan (161) and Nichols Canyon (155) were also awarded top honours in their novice hurdling divisions by a committee spearheaded by the British Horseracing Authority and Turf Club's senior handicappers Phil Smith and Noel O'Brien. Likewise, Un De Sceaux was deemed the outstanding two-mile novice chaser on 168, while Vautour's 171 reinforced his status as one of two novices to achieve record-high ratings.

Coneygree was the other novice to top Sprinter Sacre's 2012 mark of 169 on 172. However, Gigginstown Stud's Don Cossack emerged as the most accomplished horse in both the two-and-a-half-mile and three-mile plus categories with a rating of 175 despite finishing only third to Uxizandre in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

Don Cossack atoned for that with a sensational 26-length defeat of Cue Card at Aintree, before toppling Coneygree's Gold Cup victims Djakadam and Road To Riches at Punchestown.

Although Silviniaco Conti has also failed to show his best form at Cheltenham, he is a six-time Grade One winner, so it was quite a statement to rank Don Cossack his superior.

"What do you call Don Cossack's 26-length win at Aintree?" the BHA's Mark Olley mused in assessing what are widely recognised to be a top-class crop of emerging young chasers.

"Strictly speaking it could be even higher than the 175 he was given. We had similar discussions around Vautour."

Irish Independent

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