JOCKEY Bryan Cooper will be able to reward the faith shown by his boss Michael O’Leary if Don Cossack wins today’s Ryanair Chase.
O’Leary’s maroon and white colours have never been carried to victory in the race that his airline sponsors.
However Don Cossack, trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott, is unbeaten from four starts this season and Cooper will be buoyed by the imposing success of Don Poli in yesterday’s RSA Chase – the Gold Cup for novices.
“Don Cossack’s form is rock solid and you still have people picking bits to fault him about, but he’s still a dual Grade One winner,” said the jockey. “We’re really looking forward to him.”
Cooper’s mount spearheads a formidable Irish challenge in the two-mile, five-furlong Grade One.
The Ted Walsh-trained Foxrock was touted as a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender before being supplemented for this shorter event.
The home team is headed by Alan King’s Balder Success and the Nicky Henderson-trained Ma Filleule, first and second respectively in last month’s Ascot Chase.
Jockey Wayne Hutchinson feels a step up in distance has been key to the improved form shown by Balder Success. “He’s done it nicely the last twice and I was very taken with Ascot. He exceeded what I expected in the manner he did it,” said the rider.
“The step up in trip has helped him find his comfort zone and he’s a slick jumper, which is what you need round Cheltenham.”
Ma Filleule was runner-up to Gold Cup contender Holywell at last year’s Festival before a scintillating victory over the National fences at Aintree.
This season has not been plain sailing for the grey mare, but trainer Nicky Henderson was encouraged by her Ascot effort.
He said: “You’d have to hope she’d be closely matched with Balder and we’ve good reason to think we’d be on a par with him.”