Don plunders Gold for ageless Carberry
Don Cossack saw Coneygree's length-and-a-half Gold Cup defeat of Djakadam and raised it five-and-a-half to announce himself a serious contender with a devastating performance under Paul Carberry at Punchestown.
Gordon Elliott's exciting eight-year-old's only blip this season came when he looked unlucky under Bryan Cooper in the Ryanair Chase that his Gigginstown Stud owner Michael O'Leary sponsors at Cheltenham. Cooper picked up a raft of suspensions in the Cotswolds that then denied him the opportunity to partner Don Cossack to a deeply impressive success in the Melling Chase at Aintree.
AP McCoy deputised there, and there was an irony to Carberry stepping in here. McCoy retired just over a week shy of his 41st birthday. Carberry, the Peter Pan of the weigh-room, turned 41 in February, so McCoy could be forgiven for wondering why he was kicking his heels at the Kildare venue yesterday. If he weren't already.
Cooper erroneously picked Don Poli over Valseur Lido on Tuesday and he opted for the Gold Cup third Road To Riches in this Bibby Financial Services-sponsored version. He can't catch a clean break right now.
Djakadam confirmed his superiority over Road To Riches in what was a gripping renewal of the €200,000 Grade One. However, Don Cossack outshone them both and was slashed to 6/1 from 20/1 for the 2016 Gold Cup.
"I'll keep going as long as they keep coming. I've a wedding to pay for," quipped Carberry after a belated first win in the race prompted a flying dismount. "It's just as well AP retired on Saturday!" he added with a grin. "To go to Cheltenham and Aintree and come here is hard to do, but this fellow has always been a serious horse. Gordon's done a great job with him."
Road To Riches and Djakadam vied for the early lead. Carberry brought Don Cossack through from the rear to tack onto their heels three-out. He gave him a reminder before they swung for home, and his mount bounced back on the bridle for it.
Don Cossack led two-out and pulled clear to score for a sixth time in seven runs. It was another resolute display from a horse that once looked suspect.
"He has always been the apple of my eye," Elliott said after the 5/2 shot's success. "We wanted to find out whether or not he stays the trip to know where we would be going next season. We were nervous about running but it was the Gold Cup so we said we'd take our chance.
"Michael and (brother) Eddie said that if it doesn't happen, it doesn't, we won't knock him about. I'm so pleased with the way he did it - from the last to the line he put seven lengths between them, which was impressive."
Of his fellow Co Meath native up top, Elliott joked: "He is some man - he is 40-odd now and he's getting married this year as well, the eejit, but sure these things happen! He has been associated with me for a long time so I'm delighted to give him a Grade One. "
The win vindicated the handicapper Noel O'Brien's decision to award Don Cossack the highest rating in the race with a mark of 171. It was the first Grade One of the week that hadn't gone Willie Mullins' way, but normal service resumed in the Champion Bumper, as Aintree runner-up Bellshill (8/1) stormed home for his son Patrick.
It has been a good week for second-strings in Grade Ones, and the stable's Killultagh Vic (8/1) upset favourite backers in the three-mile novices' hurdle under Paul Townend, as Shaneshill's effort proved short-lived.
"I don't know if Shaneshill didn't stay, but Killultagh Vic stayed well," Mullins said. "I have always viewed him as a chaser, but I might keep an eye on the World Hurdle after that."
The day began as Tuesday ended with a 33/1 winner in Stephen Nolan's Andrew Ring-ridden Shamiran. Then Walk To Freedom won at 50/1, and Ballyadam Approach took the handicap chase at 12/1 for Terence O'Brien and David Splaine.
David Pipe's Champers On Ice (9/4 fav) ensured that the last was lucky for punters. The grey shaded the bumper under Jamie Codd after a battle royal with market rival First Figaro.
Bookmakers' take on the day was up one per cent on 2014 to €1,121,205.