Punchestown 2015: Don takes Gold for Elliot and evergreen Carberry
A courageous decision by connections and a superb training performance by Gordon Elliott reaped the highest of rewards as Don Cossack silenced any last remaining doubters to land the Bibby Finacial Punchestown Gold Cup.
Described as “the apple of my eye” by Elliott, Don Cossack won for the sixth time in what has been an incredible season and proved without any doubt that three miles wasn’t a problem as he asserted rapidly after the last to run out a seven-length winner.
The Gigginstown owned eight-year-old quashed any doubts about him getting the 3m1f trip to pull clear of the Cheltenham Gold Cup second and third, Djakadam and Road To Riches by seven-lengths and six-and-a-half lengths respectively.
Indeed, the fact that they were just a length-and-a-half behind Gold Cup winner Coneygree last month suggests Don Cossack’s connections have a lot to look forward to next season.
It was a red-letter success for the elder statesman of the weighroom Paul Carberry, who was winning the Punchestown Gold Cup for the first time and ranked the success up there just behind winning the Aintree Grand National on Bobbyjo for his father Tommy.
“I’m delighted to give Paul a winner as we go back a long way and he’s been associated with me ever since I started out training,” said Elliott.
Elliott admitted that the decision to run in the race after his impressive exploits at Aintree was a tough one and even at declaration time on Monday morning he was having doubts.
He said: “I was nervous about running him but (owners) Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) filled me with confidence so we decided to take our chance. I spoke to the lads in the yard who ride him out and they were happy with him, he came out of Aintree bouncing and thank God it worked out so lets hope he’s alright in the morning.”
Elliott was looking forward to enjoying the occasion rather than mulling over plans for next season but he said no prisoners were taken in the race that was run at a good gallop.
“They were flat to the boards the whole way around there and I thought that was a better performance than at Aintree. I’ve no idea if he’d stay the extra distance of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, I’ll worry about that next March, there are a lot of races in between,” said Elliott.
Reflecting on the win, Carberry said: “I thought that if I was going to have a ride in the race it would have been Road To Riches but, thankfully, Gordon let me ride this fella. I’ve always loved the horse and it was great to get the opportunity to ride him - it’s lucky that AP retired!
“But AP told me how to ride him before the race and it worked out as he said. Turning in I was cantering and I put his head down after the second last and then got a good jump at the last. He’s a fair one, the way he jumps and to show that turn of foot over three miles.”
Later on the card Jamie Codd continued his good start to the week by sending favourite backers home happy after guiding Champers On Ice to victory in the concluding bumper for David Pipe.
The recent point-to-point winner, who cost £205,000 at the Brightwells Cheltenham Sale last month, had just a head to spare over First Figaro but it proved enough for Pipe who was striking at the Punchestown Festival yet again.
It’s hard to think there’ll be a bigger priced winner this week than Walk To Freedom who was returned 50/1 after taking the Louis Fitzgerald Hurdle under Robert Power.
A horse always held in high regard, he has often frustrated connections but came good on the big stage yesterday to the delight of his trainer.
“If you look through his record, one day we could not even get the jockey on because he got loose in the parade ring,” said trainer Jessica Harrington. “But today he got it all together and when he does that he has got a good engine.”