Don Cossack won the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup authoritatively this afternoon (Friday, 18 March) under jockey Bryan Cooper.
The nine-year-old gelding was sent off 9-4 favourite for the showpiece of the Cheltenham Festival and did not disappoint.
The early pace was set by Hennessy winner Smad Place, with the grey gelding putting in some big leaps as he lead the field for most of the way.
However, seven out Don Cossack was looming, while the Willie Mullins-trained Djakadam took the lead six from home.
Don Cossack hit the front two from home, driven along by Bryan. Despite a challenge from Djakadam and Ruby Walsh, Gordon Elliott’s stable star won by 4 1/2 lengths.
Don Poli was a further 10 lengths back in third.
It was an eighth win at the Festival for the Irish trainer and a first Gold Cup.
“I can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable. I’m just so happy for all of us — all the staff in the yard, and my mother and father,” said Gordon.
“I’m in a great position; I’ve got a lot of good owners at the moment.
“I’ve never been so nervous in my life. It means so much to me to win a Gold Cup. It was something special.”
Bryan added: “I couldn’t believe I was going that easy turning for home. He went to go round again at the bend after the last. He galloped the whole way to the line. He jumped great — he only missed one fence all the way round. Other than that, he was foot perfect.
“Don Cossack has beaten what’s been put in front of him and that’s all he can do. He’s the best I’ve ever sat on.”
It was a second win in the famous race for owner Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud. He took the race before with War Of Attrition in 2006.
“I am actually so emotional. We have been doing seconds all week. Bryan gave Don Cossack a peach of a ride and for [O’Leary’s other runner] Don Poli to finish third is brilliant,” said Michael.
“What a race. Djakadam put it up to him the whole way around and I feel sorry for Cue Card. It is a pity.
“Gold Cups are incredibly hard to win. I’m thrilled. I’m so happy I could cry.“
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The fairytale wasn’t to be for popular chaser Cue Card, who fell at the third last. There was audible concern from the crowd, who were relieved to see Cue Card up on his feet and walking away uninjured.
The gelding was two thirds of a way through a three leg £1m bonus, which could have been sealed with the Gold Cup, after winning this season’s Betfair Chase and King George.
“We just thank God that Cue Card got up after the fall,” said his trainer Colin Tizzard, who celebrated winning the World Hurdle with Thistlecrack yesterday (Thursday, 17 March).
“That is championship racing, isn’t it — two seconds before that you think here we go — he was slightly in front. He just put down and hit the top of the fence and over he went.
“He is absolutely fine, he’s walked away as though he hasn’t got care in the world and hardly blowing. There are worst things that have happened.”