Bryan Cooper: We’ve put the doubters in their place

Bryan Cooper turned his head to face the masses in Cheltenham’s grandstand as he crossed the line on Don Cossack in yesterday’s Gold Cup and, as he did, he released a roar that will have surely silenced his many doubters.
Bryan Cooper: We’ve put the doubters in their place

A three-time winner here at his first festival in 2013, he has juggled some good times with some bad since.

Cooper was riding Clarcam in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle 12 months later when falling at the second last.

That left him with what the Jockey Club’s chief medical officer Dr Adrian McGoldrick described as “the worst fracture I have seen in a lower limb”.

If getting back into the saddle was a trial then his return hasn’t been all gravy.

The man from Blennerville, Co Kerry, has had to contend with a large, discontented body of opinion that claimed he wasn’t making the right decisions, both during races and before them.

There he was: Retained rider for Michael and Eddie O’Leary’s Gigginstown operation, saddling up for one of Ireland’s top trainers in Gordon Elliott and with a growing body of work already behind him. All that did was pile the pressure higher.

Results were demanded. Now. Always.

“I can’t thank Michael and Eddie [O’Leary] enough. From the time I broke my leg here two years ago, they have supported me all the way.

"Last year was a hit and miss year. I had a couple that got away from us, but they really stuck with me,” said Cooper.

“That filled me with confidence,” he explained. “We’re a great team and this was a great team effort.

"Don Cossack has beaten what’s been put in front of him and that’s all he can do. He’s certainly the best I’ve ever sat on.”

There’s a pleasing symmetry in the fact that Cooper has silenced his doubters on board the nine-year old, given Don Cossack had his doubters as well.

In fairness, his form did entitle a few debates and Cooper actually believes his choice of Don Cossack over Don Poli for the Gold Cup only added to them.

Talk about fuel for the fire.

“We’ve put all the doubters away now,” he said.

“They all said he wasn’t good enough. All the people who said I didn’t get on with him: We’ve put them in their place today.

"There’s only one day and this was it. We’ve not quite had a good enough one this week, but this one certainly was.”

People seemed to forget about his youth. He’s still only 23.

He reminded us of that yesterday and to stand amid the bedlam of the winner’s enclosure yesterday and follow this young man as he was pulled hither and yon was to appreciate just how mature and impressive he is.

He shook hands with Michael O’Leary, JP McManus and Princess Anne at one point, all in the space of about 60 seconds.

That’s head-spinning stuff in itself. There were maybe half-a-dozen occasions inside a 30-minute period when he was afforded a split second to himself.

He puffed his cheeks out and exhaled deeply every time.

“It’s over so quick,” he said at one point of the race itself.

Gordon Elliott concurred, revealing that his most immediate desire was to see a rerun of the race given his nerves ruined the actual running itself, but he saw enough to know that his pilot had been pure “class”.

“He rode a brilliant race today in the Triumph on Apple’s Jade, who is an inexperienced horse, and now he has won a Gold Cup,” declared Michael O’Leary.

“Not bad: To win a Gold Cup at 23 years of age. It’s great for him.”

The week’s context made it all the more impressive.

It hadn’t been a profitable first two days for Cooper and he admitted yesterday afternoon that some kind and encouraging words from the likes of Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh had helped buttress his belief before he cracked a win with Empire of Dirt on Thursday in one of the handicaps.

It was a wholly unexpected fillip and it seems to have been a key moment for the jockey, who spoke about how the Geraghtys and Walshes of this world have reams more experience to fall back on when days are darker than you might care for.

This, then, will do wonders for him.

Not just a Gold Cup winner, but the winner of a Gold Cup that, after a fallow enough few years in the wake of the Kauto Star/Denman/Long Run era, delivered a race replete with much more in the way of class and depth to which we had all become accustomed.

Who doubts him now?

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