herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

AP teams up with the Don

Don Cossack in action
Don Cossack in action

Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack will face nine rivals in the £200,000 Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree tomorrow afternoon and AP McCoy will be onboard for the first time, becoming the eighth different jockey to ride the eight-year-old.

Don Cossack and Cheltenham absentee Champagne Fever feature in the intriguing Grade One contest which has also attracted former Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy.

Elliott’s stable star went to Cheltenham on the back of four straight wins and ran well to finish third in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham after making a costly mistake at a crucial stage in the race. McCoy will be replacing the suspended Bryan Cooper.

Champagne Fever was a faller when vying with Don Cossack for victory at the final fence in the Kinloch Brae and he had to sit out the Cheltenham Festival despite being over there after getting bitten by a stable companion in transit to the meeting.

His trainer Willie Mullins expects being a fresh horse to be a big help to the dual Cheltenham Festival winner but it looks a trappy field. Britain’s champion trainer elect, Paul Nicholls, will run Al Ferof who hasn’t had a race since finishing third in the King George, while Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card is another to have bypassed last months’ Cheltenham Festival and he too was last seen at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.

Joshua Moore will ride Sire De Grugy for just the second time in a race with his brother and regular rider Jamie sidelined through injury and it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back from his fourth- placed finish behind Dodging Bullets in the Champion Chase.

Despite not running, Champagne Fever dominated a lot of the talk after the Champion Chase as many felt that it may have been a race that he’d have won and connections may earn some compensation tomorrow afternoon on the second day of the Aintree Grand National meeting.

There are 18 Irish-trained runners at Aintree this afternoon on the opening day of the meeting including six in the Foxhunters, headed by

Cheltenham hero On The Fringe.

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