In winning the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup for Gigginstown, Paul Carberry was filling one of the few omissions on his glittering CV.
He did so in front of a crowd of 16,880 on board a horse who bounced back after disappointing somewhat in finishing third in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham to record an emphatic victory in the Betfred Melling Chase at Aintree. His rider that day was a certain AP McCoy. You may remember him.
With McCoy a spectator and Bryan Cooper opting to partner Road To Riches, Carberry was the man for the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack yesterday and how he delivered, producing a typically patient ride before creeping into contention down the back straight. Don Cossack was only third in the straight, trailing Cheltenham Gold Cup second and third Djakadam and Road To Riches but finished in the style of a high-class horse after the final fence to run out an ultimately decisive seven-length victor.
It was vintage Carberry.
“I’ve always loved the horse – it’s great to get the opportunity to ride him,” said Carberry after a flying dismount that delighted spectators more than Michael O’Leary’s decision to playfully fire a bucket of water in their direction. “Just as well AP retired on Saturday, he’d probably have been on him! But he told me how to ride him before the race and it worked out as he said.”
Carberry has long been viewed as one of the most natural horsemen in the game and while it’s safe to assume he doesn’t require much advice, words of wisdom from McCoy are different.
“He sat third or fourth and they were going quickly enough,” Carberry said of how the race progressed. “He ran a bit keen down the hill but then he switched off. Turning in I was always confident. One tap on the shoulder and he quickened well, he seemed to have plenty left. After he jumped the last, he put the head down.”
Don Cossack has long had a tall reputation but the tenacity and resolution he displayed yesterday and throughout this season hasn’t always been there in the past. There can be no doubts on that front now.
Carberry, who joked his share of the winnings will come in useful ahead of his upcoming wedding, added: “To go to Cheltenham and Aintree is very hard to do. I know he got beat at Cheltenham but to win at Aintree and then come here and win is very difficult. He’s a fair one, the way he jumps and to show that turn of foot after three miles (is impressive).
“I rode this horse four or five years ago up the gallops and I said to Gordon if you could have about 10 of these in the yard it would be great. He’s a serious horse.
“Gordon went the right route with him this year. He didn’t kill him early on. It’s worked.
“He will be a Gold Cup contender next year.”
Elliott preferred to savour the moment rather then speculate about what might unfold next March but bookmakers were predictably far less reticent with Paddy Power cutting Don Cossack from 20/1 to 6-1 and Ladbrokes going 8/1 from 10/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
On the evidence of yesterday, the Irish challenge will be strong as both Djakadam and Road To Riches were far from disgraced in second and third. That’s before you consider current favourite Vautour and Don Poli, despite Tuesday’s below par effort.
“He was very keen,” Willie Mullins said of Djakadam. “He’s not been like that before and probably got lit up by going to Cheltenham. But we’ll be able to harness that in a good way next season. It was a tremendous training performance by Gordon to keep Don Cossack fresh and improving all season.”
At this point in his career Carberry isn’t improving. Then again, he doesn’t need too. As McCoy’s exit reminded us, we should treasure genius while we still have it.