elliott: cossack ready for chase
Gordon Elliott reports Don Cossack to be "bouncing" ahead of his bid to cap a fantastic season in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month.
The County Meath-based trainer has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds the eight-year-old and he has come of age this term, winning each of his four starts including the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in December.
He was a wide-margin winner of the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles last month following the final-fence fall of main rival Champagne Fever and he will now bid to provide Michael O'Leary, owner of Gigginstown House Stud and Ryanair, with a first victory in the race he sponsors at the Festival.
"He's bouncing and we couldn't be happier with him," Elliott said. "He's been great this season. He's just been a different horse and is finishing his races out better and looks better.
"He's just so big he could have been a bit weak and watery (last season).
"We haven't done much work with him (since Thurles), but he's coming off the gallop in great order and he's eating great and doing everything right.
"We're looking forward to Cheltenham and it would be nice to win the race for the sponsor."
Willie Mullins has raised the possibility of Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen taking in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday week.
The seven-year-old is a red-hot favourite for the two-mile championship on the opening day of next month's Cheltenham Festival after taking his unbeaten record over timber to seven in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Mullins is thrilled with how his charge is performing on the gallops ahead of his trip to Prestbury Park in a little under five weeks and will discuss with stable jockey Ruby Walsh whether to give him more match practice ahead of the big day.
"We're looking at the Red Mills. I think there's one other contest left in England. We'll just keep all our options open," said the champion trainer.
Champagne West has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Trained by Philip Hobbs, the seven-year-old won his first two starts over fences before chasing home Ptit Zig in the Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.
He was sent off joint-favourite for the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown last Saturday but failed to jump with any fluency and eventually fell.
Owner Roger Brookhouse said: "He knocked a hock and has been sent to Newmarket for an X-ray as we think there might be a chip. He's out for rest of the season."