CHELTENHAM 2013: Seismic afternoon for Cooper ends with tale of the unexpected

Bryan Cooper was making his way back into the weighing room after yesterday’s second race when an already seismic afternoon took a turn that not even the most outlandish of childhood dreams could have conceived.

The 20-year old from Tralee had just claimed his first ever Cheltenham Festival winner on Benefficient in the Jewson Novices’ Chase opener and partnered Action Master about with far less fuss in the Pertemps Final when the unmistakeable figure of Mouse Morris arrested his progress.

“Davy’s gone, get your gear.”

The words came from a trainer scrambling desperately after Russell had exacerbated a punctured lung in the Pertemps. Naturally, Cooper did as he was told and before he knew it he was on the line for his first championship race at Prestbury Park.

Cooper had been labelled a kid with an old head on a young pair of shoulders long before yesterday’s exploits slammed on the accelerator and took him along for the spin and he reacted with a calm that hardly challenged those assumptions.

Like Roy Keane, who was turfed into his debut with Nottingham Forest against Liverpool by Brian Clough at minimal notice all those years ago, the lack of notice bypassed any nerves that such news may have initiated.

“The whole day has been a whirlwind,” he said later. “Two years ago I never even imagined that I’d be riding at the Cheltenham Festival, let alone riding a winner and having a ride in two Championship races. It’s unbelievable.”

Had Disney got their hands on the script after Morris’ order, Cooper would have proceeded to claim the Ryanair Chase on First Lieutenant and followed it up by guiding Bog Warrior to the featured World Hurdle.

That he didn’t hardly lessens the fairytale nature of a two-hour spell that few if any jockeys can have known in the history of this festival and it could yet be capped by a stunning sequel today with a possible berth on Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup.

“Definitely,” was his response when asked yesterday afternoon if he was in the mix.

One wonders what his dad Tom will be like if that turns out to be the case. His old man has known his own great days here down the years having trained Total Enjoyment and Forpadydeplasterer to festival wins but he never knew nerves like this.

He had watched his son finish second to Lord Windermere on board Lyreen Legend the day before in a state of perfect serenity but he was “twinging” yesterday and, why, he couldn’t explain.

So, how did it compare to his own glory days?

“Ah, sure I’ve had good days training, but this is equally good if not better. I think this is actually better, well equally as good anyway. That’s all he ever wanted since he was two years of age sitting on the back of the couch.”

The young jockey had been disconsolate after his second-place finish the day before when many his age would have been ecstatic but then this a guy whose Twitter feed declares: ‘Never let defeat rob you of success’.

In fairness, he was bred on the latter. When he was eleven, Bryan Cooper led Total Enjoyment and Jim Culloty into the winners enclosure here after their win in the Bumper and Benefficient’s trainer, Tony Martin, clearly believes he will get to know that hallowed patch of ground even better in the year to come.

“As far as I am concerned, Ruby Walsh, (Barry) Geraghty and (Paul) Carberry are out on their own but they are the older brigade,” said Martin for whom this was a third festival success. This gossun, this boy will be there a long time when they are gone and retired.”

Cooper Snr was in full agreement after his offspring had undone race favourite Dynaste by forcing his way up the rails and winning by over three lengths after a mighty leap at the last.

“He didn’t panic and got the run up the inner. Jesus, he can’t do nothing wrong,” said Tom. “He’s talented.”

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