Thursday 22 February 2018

Sidelined Irish stars crowned kings

Bryan Cooper celebrates after winning the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on Don Cossack with groom Louise Dunne alongside (SPORTSFILE)
Bryan Cooper celebrates after winning the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on Don Cossack with groom Louise Dunne alongside (SPORTSFILE)
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Don Cossack and Faugheen have emerged as the highest rated jumpers in training for a second year.

As was the case at the end of the 2014-2015 campaign, the handicappers' consensus in the Anglo-Irish Classifications is that Gordon Elliott's Gold Cup hero Don Cossack was the best jumps horse in training last term.

His rating of 177 constitutes an improvement of two pounds on his 2015 figure, while Faugheen topped the hurdlers' division with a similar two-pound hike to 176. The cruel irony of their respective honours is that both finished their seasons on the sidelines.

Rich Ricci's Faugheen earned his figure despite being beaten by his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Nichols Canyon on his reappearance.

Last year's Champion Hurdle victor ran just twice more, bouncing back to his best to destroy The New One at Kempton on St Stephen's Day, before posting a career-best effort when demolishing the Irish Champion Hurdle field at Leopardstown last January.

It is hoped that the eight-year-old will make a full recovery from a suspensory ligament strain ahead of a return to action next term, though the outlook is less upbeat for Don Cossack.

Elliott's Gigginstown Stud-owned nine-year-old suffered a tendon injury last month, and, while connections have not ruled out a return to the track at some point next season, his predicament is more serious.

Mullins' star mare Annie Power, which exploited a seven-pound allowance to plunder famous wins in the Champion and Aintree Hurdles, was allotted a mark of 166, while the stable's Vautour topped the middle-distance chase category on 173. The revitalised two-mile chaser Sprinter Sacre also breached the 170-mark with a figure of 175. Mullins's exceptional novice Douvan fell a pound shy of the magical 170.

This Saturday, Mullins could saddle contrasting sorts in the Prix La Barka, with both Un De Sceaux and Thousand Stars in the Auteuil Grade Two over an extended two miles and five furlongs.

Meanwhile, at Clonmel tonight, Eoin Doyle's Cliffside Park is trusted with the nap vote to confirm his liking for the course and decent ground.

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