Cooper claimed Grade One glory on Clarcam, Lieutenant Colonel, Road To Riches and Don Poli at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival last December and was also successful on recent Fighting Fifth winner Identity Thief.
Topping that won’t be easy but the Gigginstown team is a stellar one. Road To Riches will be back to defend his Lexus Chase crown in a race where the possible presence of Don Poli, Cooper’s only winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, could leave the Kerry jockey with a selection dilemma.
Identity Thief is among the entries for the Ryanair Hurdle, Clarcam could line up in the Paddy Power Dial-a-Bet Chase while the progressive No More Heroes is a confirmed runner in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase.
“It’s a great week,” Cooper said. “We had a great week last year as well so we’re looking forward to it. We’ve a serious bunch, a great team.”
Barring a late change of plans, Cooper will miss day one of Leopardstown as he will be in Kempton to ride Don Cossack, the highest rated chaser in these islands, in what is shaping up to be a truly epic King George.
The field is set to include Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Vautour, a rejuvenated Cue Card and, potentially, Gold Cup holder Coneygree.
It’s a stellar cast but Cooper’s regard for Don Cossack is obvious.
Asked if Don Cossack is the best horse he’s ridden the reply is instant. “He’s up there. Our Conor would have been pretty special but Don Cossack’s going the right way.”
Another Gigginstown chaser on an upward curve is No More Heroes, a quite brilliant winner of the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse last weekend. Awesome was the word trainer Gordon Elliott used and Cooper is inclined to agree.
“He did it well, jumped fantastic, beat some very good horses and made it look easy so I’d say he’s going the right way.”
The next Don Cossack?
“He’s big boots to fill but he’s going the right way about it.”
Cooper made headlines recently for an act of quick thinking that saved fellow jockey Robbie Power from a potentially serious injury.
Cooper’s Gunnery Sergeant and Power’s Neverushacon both came to grief at the second last in the 499 Novice Hurdle at Gowran Park last month but that was just the start of the drama.
Power’s leg became tangled in his saddle and as he screamed for assistance Cooper sprung into action, getting to his feet instantly and catching the horse until stewards arrived at the scene and eventually freed the trapped jockey.
It was, Cooper says, a lucky escape.
“He was very fortunate that both us happened to fall together,” the 23-year-old said. “Luckily I landed close enough to him and I was lucky I caught him in time. It was a lucky escape.
“Getting hung up is one of the worst things that can happen to you so it’s not something you’d like to see.”